Nov 302016

If one takes interest forbidden by the Torah, according to rabbi Elazar, the court can force him to return it.  Various cases are brought in which the interest was different than they had agreed upon.  In each case, does the lender need to return what was agreed upon or what he actually received?   The mishna distinguishes between rentals and sales in terms of agreeing to a higher price if the buyer/renter pays at a later date.  In rental contracts it is allowed because generally rentals are paid at the end so there is no benefit to paying at the end as that is what is expected.  This is different from a sale where money is generally paid from the beginning.  Some rabbis each try to explain cases from their business practices explaining how they justify that they charge a higher rate to those who pay at a later date.  If a buyer pays only part of the money and says he will pay the rest later, what happens in the interim period?  Can either side eat the produce?  A braita is brought which explains that there are 4 possible options – depending on what the wording of the agreement was.

Nov 282016

After 2 failed attempts at understanding the case in the mishna where interest is forbidden by rabbinic decree, Rava brings an explanation according to Rabbi Oshaya’s braita and according to Rabii Yannai’s opnion – that one can turn a loan of money into a loan of produce and not be worried that prices will fluctuate if the borrower has the item in his possession.  However, if he does not, then it appears like interest since the price may rise and in the end he will receive a higher value.  Rav disagrees with Rabbi Yannai adn thinks that one cannot turn a loan for one item inot the value of the item to then transfer it into money or a different item (like wheat for wine – as in the braita of Rabbi Yoshaya).  Two explanatinos are given as to how he can go against the braita of Rabbi Oshaya.  One of them is that it follows the unique opinion of Rabbi Yehuda that a transaction where there is potential for interest but it is not clear that there will be an interest payment (maybe prices will stay the same or go down and the lender will not receive more value), is allowed.  Rabba and Rav Yosef distinguish between and loan and a sale and allow in a sale to pay up front and only receive produce at a later date even if the seller doesn’t have them yet in his possession.  Rav Nachman teaches that any case of getting payment for waiting is considered interest and a case is brought to illustrate.

Nov 272016

Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Elazar debate whether the court can force one who collects interest at a fixed rate to return the interest payment that he collected.  Various sources are brought to prove/disprove the opinions.  The first mishna in the chapter described interest forbidden by the rabbis.  The case was multi-tiered and the gemara attempts to explain exactly what the case is and what makes it forbidden.  Both attempts are rejected and in the next daf, Rava will bring an alternate explanation.

Nov 252016

What is allowed and not allowed in a competitive business environment?  The fifth chapter analyzes the laws of interest.  It begins with a description of interest forbidden by the Torah and interest forbidden by rabbinic law.  Then the gemara translates the terms neshech (loss for the borrower) and marbit (gain for the lender) and explains that both terms of used to teach that there are two negative commandments associated with interest but there are no cases where one would apply without the other.

Nov 242016

The gemara discusses how severe it is to embarrass another.  There are those who stress one should not verbally abuse one’s wife and it is mentioned that having food in the house (financial security) is advisable in order to keep peace in the house.  In the context of the discussion of verbal abuse, it is said that even though many tefillot are not always accepted, one who prays about verbal abuse will always be heard and God will punish those who did it.  This was meant as a scare tactic to prevent abuse.  Then the story of the oven of achnai is brought to show the power of tefillot of those who were verbally absued.  Rabbi Eliezer was abused by the rabbis by being excommunicated for standing up to them and disagreeing with the mainstream position.  Even though he was able to prove through signs and even a heavenly voice that his position was the correct one, Rabbi Yehoshua declared: “lo bashamayim hi – it is not in the heavens.”  This story stands at the basis of the halachic system and the power of the rabbis to create their own truth as they see it even if it doesn’t correspond with the absolute truth of God.  However, bringing up the story in this sugya is to show the power of words and how the abuse against Rabbi Eliezer eventually caused the death of Rabban Gamliel (through his prayers).  Rabbi Eliezer himself also was sinned through speech by using his words to teach against the mainstream position.

Nov 232016

The mishna states that in hekdesh cases, a shomer who watches for free doesn’t have to swear to be exempt and a shomer who watches for pay doesn’t have to pay in cases of theft or loss.   Sources are brought that seem to contradict and various resolutions are brought.  Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Yehuda’s positions are brought and explained.  The mishna then explains that in addition to exploitation of money that has been discussed at length in this chapter, there is also a Torah commandment against verbal abuse.  Various examples are brought and the gemara stresses how serious an offense it is.

Nov 222016

While the various categories are excluded from laws of exploitation, does this mean that it is only at the halachic level of explioitation (1/6) or would it also apply if one exploited another to a higher degree (bitul mekach – where we generally say the sale is cancelled)?  Various answers are given.  One of the answers passed down in the name of Rabbi Yochanan seems to contradict soemthing he holds elsewhere.  Various answers are provided.  Derivations for the exclusions of these categories in the other laws in the mishna (double payment, laws of shomrim) are brought.

Nov 212016

The Rabbis debate whether or not Rabbi Meir holds that the rabbis made their laws stringent like the Torah laws.  Various sources are brought to prove or disprove.  Abaye questions many of the stages of the debate claiming that there should be levels of rabbinic laws – ones that are prone to death by the court, death by the heavens, a lo taase and therefore the proofs and disproofs are comparing things that should not be compared.  The mishna cites certain things that the general laws of exploitation (ona’ah) do not apply to – land, slaves, documents and hekdesh.  Also other laws like double payment and laws of shomrim don’t apply to those same categories.  There are some distinctions made by other tannaim and a few more added to the list.  The gemara shows the derivation of the exemption to the laws of exploitation.

Study Guide Bava Metzia 56

Nov 202016

Is the additional one fifth payment added when redeeming an item that you designated for the beit hamikdash also added to a secondary hekdesh (something you bought with that coin and then want to redeem that item also)?  The mishna lists minimum amount of money for various laws.  And 5 laws for which the minimum amount is a pruta.  Levi has a different list of what are the five items and the gemara disucsses why they each differ from each other.  The mishna lists 5 cases where one needs to add one fifth.  One of the items if d’mai – which is a rabbinic obligation (a case where it is doubtful if trumot and maasrot were taken).  The gemara questions why the rabbis would insist that one would add a fifth if one ate d’mai – why would it be treated as stringently as a Torah obligation?  They answer that it is according to rabbi Meir’s approach that the rabbis do make their decrees as strong as the Torah and it is proven from a case of divorce law where Rabbi Meir is stringent.