Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Borrowing with the Owner

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By: Reb Avi Lebovitz

Rav Hamnuna holds that the exemption of borrowing an animal with its owner only applies to a case where the owner is borrowed to work in the same labor as the animal, AND that the owner was there at the time that the accident occurred.

This approach in שאלה בבעלים is certainly the most rationale, because the reason for the exemption is that since the owner was there at the time of the accident doing the same work, he should have watched his own animal.

This is the approach of the GR"A in Aderes Eliyahu to explain the concept of שאלה בבעלים. However, the Meshech Chochma (Mishpatim 22:3) points out that this approach doesn’t at all work with the halachic ruling, rejecting Rav Hamnuna entirely. We hold that שאלה בבעלים is completely dependent on the time that the object was borrowed, the owner must have already been in the borrower service (or at least begin immediately), AND it makes no difference if the owner is working with the object that has been borrowed or in something else. What then is the rationale behind this halachah?

The Meshech Chochma suggests that the rationale is based on a Gemora in Megillah (26b) which states that the sanctity of a Shul would go away, not only through a sale, but even if it is given as a gift because: if they would not have received any benefit from the recipient, they would not have given it to him (therefore it is like a sale). Here too, it is not common to do such a huge favor for the borrower to lend him an object and work for him at the same time. Therefore, we assume that the owner is only lending and working in exchange for something that he received. Since the owner received something in exchange, the borrower is no longer a borrower, but has been downgraded to a renter, who is exempt if an unavoidable accident occurs.

This approach doesn’t explain those who hold that negligence is also exempt, and it also doesn’t explain why he is exempt for theft according to those who hold a renter is normally liable for theft (like a spaid custodian). Perhaps we will have to assume a “lo p’lug” (no distinction) to explain those opinions.

With this, we can somewhat explain the Gemora’s question (96a) whether שאלה בבעלים applies when the owner sends his messenger rather than going himself. Does the sending of a messenger also indicate that the owner must have received something significant in return for lending and supplying a worker, or do we only assume that when he himself goes? However, if this is in fact the question of the Gemora, it shouldn’t really be dependent on the halachah of שלוחו של אדם כמותו anywhere else; it should be an isolated question regarding the assumption in this specific situation. Yet, the Gemora compares it to the general halachah of שלוחו של אדם כמותו by the annulment of vows.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kal Vachomer

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The Gemora states that something which may be derived through a kal vachomer (literally translated as light and heavy, or lenient and stringent; an a fortiori argument; it is one of the thirteen principles of biblical hermeneutics; it employs the following reasoning: if a specific stringency applies in a usually lenient case, it must certainly apply in a more serious case), the Torah may anyway take the trouble to write it explicitly.

The Bnei Yissoschar explains the reasoning for this: A kal vachomer is based upon logic. One might say that the reason this halachah (derived through a kal vachomer) is correct is because it is understandable to me; it makes sense. The Torah therefore goes out of its way to write it explicitly in order to teach us that the halacha is correct because the Torah said so; regardless of whether it is understood or not.

The Ra”n in Nedarim (3a) notes that this concept is applicable by a hekesh (when the halachos from one topic are derived from another one) as well. The Gemora in Bava Metzia (61a) states that it also applies to a gezeirah shavah (one of the thirteen principles of Biblical hermeneutics; it links two similar words from dissimilar verses in the Torah).

According to the explanation of the Bnei Yissoschar, we could say that the concept should only apply to a kal vachomer, for that is based upon logic. The Torah would not find it necessary to state explicitly a halachah which is derived through a hekesh or gezeirah shavah, for they are not based upon logic at all, and it would be superfluous to write it.

The Yad Malachei writes that if the Torah does explicitly write a halachah which was derived through one of the thirteen principles of Biblical hermeneutics, we must treat it more stringently than an ordinary halachah. This is comparable to a Rabbinical prohibition, which has a slight support from something written in the Torah. Tosfos in Eruvin (31b) rules that such a prohibition is stricter than an ordinary one, which does not have any Scriptural support.

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Stipulation regarding Marital Relations

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The Gemora cited a braisa: If someone says to a woman that she is betrothed to him on condition that he does not owe her support, clothes, or marital relations, the kiddushin is valid, but the conditions are invalid; these are the words of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Yehudah says: In monetary matters, the condition is upheld.

The Gemora explains that Rabbi Yehudah holds that one can make a condition modifying the obligations stipulated by the Torah regarding monetary law.

This would explain why Rabbi Yehudah holds that the condition is valid when he stipulated that he does not owe her support or clothing; however, why is it valid when he stipulates that he will not have marital relations with her? This is not a monetary law!?

Rashi, because of this, writes that the husband remains obligated to have marital relations with her, for this is not a financial right. Depriving a wife from relations would cause her physical distress and therefore the condition is void.

The Mishnah Lamelech challenges this from a Gemora which states that one can say to his fellow, “Hit me and you will be exempt.” Evidently, one can waive physical anguish! Furthermore, we find that a woman can release the husband from his marital relations!?

Some answer that Rashi himself, cited in the Shitah Mikubetzes in Kesuvos (56a), states that the condition is void, for we assume that a woman will not waive her rights regarding anything which causes physical anguish; however, if she explicitly forfeits those rights, they are forfeited.

Rabbeinu Chananel holds that a man may stipulate on marital relations, and a wife can waive her rights to it as well. This is because the pleasure of relations belongs to her and it would be regarded as a financial right.

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Fly like a Bird

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The Gemora cites a braisa: If a husband says (this is your get), “On condition that you go up into the sky,” “that you go to the depths of the earth,” “that you swallow a reed of four cubits,” “that you bring me a reed one hundred cubits long,” “that you walk over the Great Ocean with your feet,” if the condition is fulfilled, the get is valid; if not, the get is invalid. Rabbi Yehudah ben Teima says: Something such as this is a get. He said the following rule: Any condition that cannot eventually be fulfilled and the husband stipulates at the outset, he is just doing that to pain his wife, and the get is therefore valid.

There is another case brought down in the Tosefta: If the husband said, “On condition that you fly in the air.”

Reb Yosef Engel in Gilyonei HaShas asks: Isn’t this something that is possible? Don’t we find such an occurrence by Alexander the Great? And in today’s age (of Reb Yosef Engel), people fly in the air using air balloons!?

He answers that the language “fly” connotes “by himself,” similar to a bird, and floating in the air using exterior devices is not what he had in mind. A condition must be fulfilled according to the language of the stipulator!

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Samson and the Lion

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It is written [Shoftim 14: 5 – 6]: And Shimshon and his father and mother went down to Timnah, and they came to the vineyards of Timnah, and behold, a young lion roared towards him. And there rested on him a spirit of Hashem, and he rent it as one would rent a kid, although he had nothing in his hand, but he did not tell his father and mother what he had done.

The question is asked: How did his father and mother not see what he did? The verse explicitly states that he went together with them!?

The Vilna Gaon answers based upon our Gemora, which states that that we tell a nazir, “Go around and do not come near the vineyard,” for we are concerned that the nazir will eat from the grapes.

Accordingly, it can be said that when Shimshon, who was a nazir, came across the vineyard, he immediately separated from them in order not to stumble by the vineyard. It was at this time that he met up with the lion.

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