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Bava Metzia, 24


QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that it is permitted for a Talmid Chacham to alter the truth when someone asks him about his host. RASHI explains that this means that if his host treated him hospitably, it is proper for him to say that he was not treated hospitably, so that the host should not be overburdened with unwanted guests.

How is it permitted for a person (a Talmid Chacham no less) to talk derogatorily about his host? What is that not Lashon ha'Ra?


(a) Apparently, since it is in the host's best interest for the Talmid Chacham to say this, the host wants him to say that he was not a good host and he is thus Mochel the Talmid Chacham, and it is not considered Lashon ha'Ra.

(b) The MAHARSHA explains, based on the ARUCH, that in all three cases in which a Talmid Chacham is permitted to alter the truth, he does not lie explicitly and say "no" instead of "yes," but rather he says "I do not know" instead of revealing the truth. When the Gemara says that a Talmid Chacham may alter the truth with regard to his host, it means that when he is asked where he will stay tonight, he is permitted to say that he does not know, even though he does know, in order to prevent people from sneaking in to his room there and stealing things from him, as the Gemara says in Chulin (127a).

(c) The RAMBAM writes that a Talmid Chacham should say that he was hosted by a *different* person instead of revealing the identity of his host.

However, although this will protect the privacy of the true host, it will be detrimental to the person whom he claims was his host! Why is it permitted to do this?

HE'OROS B'MASECHES BAVA METZIA answers that the Talmid Chacham mentions the name of a person whom he is certain that others will not want, or be able, to go to. Alternatively, no one is overburdened by one guest; it is only when a flow of guests start coming that a person becomes overburdened. Hence, by giving someone else's name as his host, the Talmid Chacham is merely causing that person to receive a single guest, and not a second guest.

QUESTION: Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar in the Mishnah (21a) teaches that when one finds a brand new item, he does not have to announce it if it has no Siman, because no one -- not even a Talmid Chacham -- will be able to identify it through Tevi'us Ayin. The Beraisa adds that if the new utensil has been used long enough for a Talmid Chacham to have Tevi'us Ayin in it, then the finder is required to announce it.

Why should the finder be required to announce the find? Why should he suspect that it belongs to a Talmid Chacham? If Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar means that the finder is *always* obligated to announce a find that has no Siman because of the possibility that its owner is a Talmid Chacham, then why is it not necessary to announce any of the objects described in the Mishnah (21a), which belong to the finder because they have no Siman?


(a) TOSFOS (DH u'Modeh) and the RAMBAN explain that for food items even a Talmid Chacham cannot have Tevi'us Ayin. (Perhaps the same applies to raw materials such as Gizei Tzemer and Pishtan, and to money, which constantly changes hands.)

(b) Tosfos and the Ramban add that according to Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar, the finder is required to announce the object only when it was found in an area frequented by Talmidei Chachamim (such as a Beis Midrash).

The RITVA and TOSFOS HA'ROSH add that if the finder saw the item fall from a Talmid Chacham (but he did not notice which one), then he is obligated to announce it.

The SHITAH MEKUBETZES cites the RASH of VIDASH who adds that if the object that was found is a Sefer or another object that is normally owned by Talmidei Chachamim, then the finder must announce it.

(c) The RA'AVAŭD (cited by the Shitah Mekubetzes) explains that the finder must indeed announce every object that he finds that has no Siman. However, it is not necessary to announce it in the same manner that he announces an object that has a Siman. It i sufficient for the finder to announce the object only two or three times in places frequented by Talmidei Chachamim (regardless of where it was found).

QUESTION: The Beraisa teaches that if a person finds a rod that holds needles, or a rope that holds axes, which has no Siman, he does not have to announce it and he may keep (when they have a standard number of needles or axes attached to them; TOSFOS SHANTZ). However, if he finds two or more such rods or ropes, then he must announce them, because the number of rods or ropes that he finds is considered a Siman. It is clear from the Beraisa that even two such items is considered an identifying number.

How can this be reconciled with what the Gemara teaches earlier (20b)? The Gemara earlier rules that when a person finds two Shtaros bound together, the number is not a Siman, because when the finder announces that he found "Shtaros" (documents), everyone knows that the minimum number that he could have found is two. Anyone will be able to claim the item and say that two of them were lost! (RASHI 20b, DH Shtarei). (RITVA)


(a) The TOSFOS SHANTZ (cited by the Shitah Mekubetzes) and the RITVA answer that when the finder announces that he found an object, he does not mention the rods or ropes, but he simply says that he found needles or axes. If the owner says that there were two of them, it indeed will not be a Siman. But if he says that there were two *rods* of needles, or two *ropes* of axes, then it *will* be a Siman.

(b) The SHITAH MEKUBETZES cites the "SHITAH" who points out that the ARUCH (Erech Bad) and the RAMBAM (Hilchos Gezeilah v'Aveidah 16:1) seem to explain the Beraisa differently. The Beraisa means that there is no standard number of needles on a rod. Rather, if a rod was found containing a single needle, then it is not a Siman, but if the rod contained two needles, then it is considered a Siman. The "Shitah" explains that according to this explanation, the finder announces merely that he found a needle-rod, or an ax-rope, and the claimant tells him the number of needles or axes that were on it.

According to this explanation, this Halachah cannot be compared to the Halachah of a person who announces that he found "Shtaros," because it is not implied in the finder's announcement that there are more than one needle or ax.


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