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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Bathra

Folio 55a

Then follow also the other ruling of Samuel, that the one who digs in it obtains only as much as he digs up. He replied: In that respect I follow our own teaching1  as laid down by R. Huna in the name of Rab: As soon as he has dug up one spadeful he becomes legal owner of the whole.

R. Huna b. Abin sent2  to say that if a Jew buys a field from a heathen and another Jew comes and occupies it [before he receives the deed], we do not dispossess him, and R. Abin and R. Elai and all our teachers were in agreement on this matter.

Rabbah said: These three rules were told me by 'Ukba b. Nehemiah the Exilarch: [one,] that the law of the Government [in civil cases] is law; [a second,] that Persians acquire ownership by forty years' occupation;3  and [a third], that if property is bought from the rich landlords4  who buy up land and pay the tax on it, the sale is valid. This applies, however, only to [land] which is transferred to the landlords on account of the land tax; if [it is sold to them] on account of the poll tax, then a purchase from them is not valid, because the poll tax is an impost on the person.5  R. Huna the son of R. Joshua, however, said that even barley in the jar is liable to be seized for the poll tax.6  R. Ashi said: Huna b. Nathan told me that Amemar found it difficult [to accept this view] because if this was so it would leave no room for the double portion to which a firstborn is entitled in an inheritance,7  since all [bequeathed] property would in this way become 'prospective',8  and a firstborn does not receive a double portion in 'prospective' as in 'actual' assets. He [R. Ashi] remarked: The same reasoning would apply to the land tax also.9  But how then do you get over the difficulty [in the case of the land tax]? [By supposing that] the father pays the land tax of the year before he dies. Similarly with the poll tax; [we suppose that] the father pays it [for the year] before he dies.10

R. Ashi further said: I questioned the scribes of Raba [on this point], and they told me that the law is in accordance with the ruling of R. Huna the son of R. Joshua.11  This, however, is not correct, and they only said so to put themselves in the right.12

R. Ashi further said: A man of leisure13  must assist the community [to pay its levy].14  This, however, is only if the community saved him from being taxed separately;15  but if the tax collectors [exempted him],16  then Providence Was kind to him.

R. Assi said in the name of R. Johanan: A boundary and a cistus17  hedge serve as a partition in the estate of a proselyte;18  not, however, for purposes of pe'ah19  and uncleanness.20  When Rabin came,21  he said in the name of R. Johanan: For purposes of pe'ah and uncleanness also. How does a partition affect pe'ah? — As we have learnt: 'These are the things which cut a field into two with respect to pe'ah:22  a river, a rivulet,

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. I.e., that of Rab.
  2. V. supra p. 211, no. 10
  3. If a Persian has been in occupation of a piece of land for forty years, and a Jew then buys it from him, his title is impregnable, although according to Jewish law it would not be impregnable (v. supra 35b). The meaning, however, may also be that in Persia 40 years' occupation is required to confer a title of ownership (even on an Israelite) and not three.
  4. Zaharuri (derivation uncertain) — men who paid to the Government the tax on land, the owners of which were in arrears, and so became owners of the land; or, according to others, the collectors of the land tax. As this transference of land was legal according to Persian law, Jews were allowed to buy the land from these people.
  5. I.e., it had to be collected from him personally and not from a distress on his property. Hence if the officials of the Government transferred his land to the Zaharuri for payment of this tax they were exceeding their powers, and the Rabbis therefore refused to recognise the subsequent purchase of such land by a Jew. [On the terms [H] (poll-tax) and [H] (land tax), as well as on the Persian law recorded here, v. Obermeyer, op. cit. p. 221, n. 3.]
  6. Hence the Government officials would be justified in transferring the land, and the subsequent purchase by a Jew would be valid.
  7. Deut. XXI, 17.
  8. Since the whole of a man's property was liable to be seized by the Government on account of his poll tax, it was not actually his at the time of death, but was due to become his when he should have paid his tax. The Rabbinical rule was that the firstborn received a double portion only of the actual assets, not of those which were due to accrue later. V. infra 119a
  9. This also renders all assets 'prospective' instead of 'actual', and therefore there would seem to be no ground for the distinction between the land tax and the poll tax made above, which Amemar also accepts.
  10. And therefore the property he leaves is 'actual' and not 'prospective'.
  11. That fields transferred for non-payment of poll tax could be bought by Jews.
  12. Because they had themselves made out deeds of such sales.
  13. Who does not engage in any kind of work, trade or commerce.
  14. The tax imposed on it by the Government.
  15. By interceding on his behalf with the officials. As by so doing the community would increase its own burden, since it would have to make up the deficiency, it had the right to demand assistance from him.
  16. And did not demand any equivalent for his tax from the rest of the community.
  17. [H], a hard kind of date tree.
  18. So that a separate act is required for acquiring the fields on each side of the hedge or boundary.
  19. Lit., 'corner', v. Lev. XXIII, 22.
  20. As explained in what follows.
  21. From Palestine to Babylon.
  22. So that pe'ah has to be given from the fields on each side.
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Baba Bathra 55b

a public carriage road1  or a private carriage road,2  a public field-path or a private field-path which is used both in the dry and the rainy season.'3  How does the partition affect uncleanness? — As we have learnt:4  'If a man goes into a plain5  in the rainy season where there is known to be uncleanness6  in a certain field, and he says, I went to that place [i.e. plain] but I do not know if I went to that spot or not, R. Eliezer declares him clean and the Sages declare him unclean,'for R. Eliezer used to say that 'if there is a doubt whether a man entered a place of uncleanness he is clean, but if there is a doubt whether he touched an unclean thing, he is unclean.'7

In respect of Sabbath, however, these things do not form a partition.8  Raba, however, says that they form a partition even in respect of Sabbath, as it has been taught: If a man takes out half a dry fig into a public place,9  and puts it down and then takes out another half a dry fig, in one spell of unawareness that it was Sabbath, he is penalised [for breaking the Sabbath],10  but if under two spells of unawareness, he is not penalised.11  R. Jose said: If he

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Of 16 cubits width.
  2. Of 4 cubits.
  3. I.e., even in the ploughing season when many paths are closed (Pe'ah II, 1).
  4. Toh. VI, 5.
  5. A stretch of cultivable land divided into fields.
  6. I.e., a grave.
  7. Ibid. VI, 4. We suppose that there is a boundary or hedge in the plain, and since this divides it Into separate fields, he is doubtful even if he entered the field where the grave was, and therefore according to R. Eliezer he is clean.
  8. In the matter of carrying on Sabbath from a private to a public place or vice versa.
  9. If anyone takes out from a private to a public place an article not smaller than a fig and sets it down there, he is liable to punishment for breaking the Sabbath.
  10. Because he has taken out one whole fig.
  11. Because he has only taken out half a fig twice.
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