What is a person’s level of responsibility toward the lost item once it is in his possession? He needs to feed an animal, air out parchment, etc. But if the animal is not producing enough to pay for its food, the owner should sell the animal. Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva debate whether this money can be used or needs to be set aside – this then affects their level of responsibility for the money if something were to happen to it. What level of responsibility they are arguing about is a subject of debate in the gemara? Are they arguing about if the item gets lost or do they all agree that he is responsible for that and they argue over a case of ones, accidental damage (like a borrower because if he can use this money, it is viewed as a loan and one who takes out a loan assumes responsibility for accidental damage). Details regarding taking care of lost items are discussed – what is one’s obligation and what is not allowed? How often?
In a store or at a money changer, the location of where the item is found will determine if it clearly belongs to the owner or if it can be taken by the finder. Various drashot are made from the items mentioned in the verses relating to lost items that need to be returned. A question is raised about whether being able to retrieve a lost item by providing identifying mark is a Torah law or rabbinic. various sources are brought to attempt to answer the question.
The mishna lists various items that one needs to announce if he finds them. The gemara proceeds to explain some of the cases and in what way they need to be found, .i.e fruits in a basket but not next to the basket, money in a particular formation. Some contradictory sources are brought and explanations are given. The next mishna describes cases where an item without identifiable signs is left in a semi protected area and it is unclear if it was left there on purpose and the owner is planning to return for it or if it is left by accident. In that case, one is unable to pick it up as the owner will have no way to retrieve his item since it has no signs.
Certain exceptions are brought – one relating to a talmid chacham who is not known to be dishonest. He can get a lost item back by merely identifying it by sight. Another exception is that even though in a situation where the owner definitely despaired, if he realizes you found it, while there is no need to return it to him by the letter of the law, there are those who returned the items anyway – lifnim meshurat hadin – because it was the right thing to do. Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says that if something is lost in a public place, we can assume the owner despaired. The gemara questions whether this is only in a place where the majority of the people are non Jews or even in a place where the majority of Jews. And if he meant also Jews, do the rabbis disagree with him about both or only in a case where the majority are Jews. And do we hold like Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar and if so, in both cases or only in the case where the majority are non Jews. The gemara tries to answer these questions by bringing various tannaitic sources and cases from the amoraim but are unable to find conclusive answers.
Different tannaitic sources including our mishna and the next mishna are brought by the amoraim to try to establish general principles regarding what can be considered an identifying siman by which a lost item needs to be returned to its owner. The amoraim also debate various categories such as location, number of items, if it can be trampled, etc.
Rava and Abaye have a disagreement about when one picks up a lost item without any identifiable features, if the owner has not yet despaired of the item (because he doesn’t even know he lost it), can we assume that since he will despair when he realizes it’s lost, the finder can acquire the item now (Rava). Or do we hold that since at this point he has not despaired, the item does not belong to the one who found it (Abaye). This is one of 6 cases where we hold like Abaye in his disagreements with Rava. The gemara tries to bring proofs for each side from tannaitic sources.
More cases are brought of lost documents that are found and whether or not they can be returned.
The gemara rejects Abaye’s support of Rabbi Yochanan’s statement that was derived from the mishna in Gitin that one cannot claim that a maaseh beit din was already paid – even if the person doesn’t provide documentation. His support was based on the fact that an engaged woman whose husband dies can demand her ketuba even if there was no ketuba written. In the end this cannot be proven to be a fact so the gemara assumes Abaye must have provided proof from a different direction and proceeds to explain from where. The mishna says if one finds a get or will or other such docuemnts, he cannot return it because maybe the person who was giving it changed his mind and decided not to give it. This implies that if he says now that he wants to give it (after we find it) he can, even if time has elapsed. This contradicts a mishna in Gittin that one can only give a get that was found immediately and not after time has elapsed as maybe soemone else with the same name wants to use the get and is claiming it as his own. Raba brings an answer and then the gemara narrows a bit the focus of his answer. Then Rabbi Zeira asks a similar question from the mishna in Gittin but on a braita, not on our mishna. He resolves it in the same way as Raba. However it is unclear about whether he also narrows the focus of his answer or not. 2 further answers are brought to resolve the contradiction between the braita and the mishna in Gittin.
Shmuel and Rabbi Yochanan debate whether if we find a document in the street that was either ratified by the court or was a shtar hakna’a (in which the land is automatically liened from the date of the document regardless of whether the loan happened or not), can we assume that it was not yet paid (since if it was, the borrower would have ripped it up) or do we assume that it was paid back (since if it wasn’t the lender never would have lost it)? Issues relating to trust are raised – in what cases is one no longer trusted to swear in court that he paid back the loan? Is the law different regarding a document found in the street with today’s date on it? Why? Rabbi Yochanan makes another statement that if something is deemed obligatory by the court (like a ketuba) then one is not trusted to say “I already paid it back” (if they can’t bring witnesses to prove it) even if the other side doesn’t provide a document. Rabbi Chiya bar Abba questions Rabbi Yochanan by asking isn’t that an explicit mishna? Rabbi Yochanan responds by saying that without my statement, it wouldn’t have been clear from the mishna what I said. Abaye then proceeds to explain why.
Shmuel’s opinions relating to shevach are discussed. If one buys from a robber and invests in the property, he loses his investment because if the robber returns him his investment, it will look like interest. Various sources are brought to contradict this but are resolved. According to Shmuel, a ba’al chov who comes to demand land from liened property, he can take the shevach, (the investment). Various sources are brought to prove or question his opinion and as a result some distinctions are made. If one buys property and knows it is stolen, Rav and Shmuel debate whether or not he can get his money back. THe basis of their argument is discussed and compared to another case where they also debate the same issue.