Thursday, 29 September 2016

Bava Metzia 3: Oaths and Claims of Partial Ownership

The rabbis instituted the halacha that people take oaths regarding ownership of a found item to dissuade people from just taking other people's things.  They go on to debate whether the claimant holds the burden of proof regarding ownership.  Sumachos speaks against the rabbis when he states that in cases of uncertain ownership, both parties take an oath.  The rabbis attempt to reconcile Sumachos's principle with the agreed upon rules of the rabbis, which state that no such oath is required.  

Rabbi Yosei brings up a case where two people make a deposit with a bailee.  One person gives one hundred dinars and the other gives two hundred dinars.  No one can recall which person gave the higher sum, but both people claim that they gave more money.  Rabbi Yosei teaches that each person should be assumed to have given only 100 dinars and that the deposit should be held in a safe place until Elijah comes.  

The rabbis argue about whether oaths should be required in this case.  They also consider the value of punishing an intentional swindler.  Witnesses are more valuable than even a ledger.  And the rabbis discuss the trustworthiness of the oath of a labourer.  

When a person testifies that they owe money, even if it is only part of the sum that it is claimed that he owes, he takes an oath that he does not owe the remainder of the amount owed.  He is believed.  It is understood that a person would not exhibit insolence by lying in the face of another person who knows the truth.  

It is amazing that our justice system continues to rely upon the 'oaths' of witnesses.  Even though there is no longer an understood fear of G-d and of G-d's punishments, people 'swear' to tell the truth and we believe them.  What can we rely on as incentive to tell the truth?  When do we believe a person whether or not they swear that they are telling the truth?  

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Bava Metzia 2: Statements or Oaths?

Masechet Bava Metzia begins with a Mishna about found items.  If two people claim that they found a cloak (tallit?) and each person says that it is all theirs, the cloak is split between them.  If one claims that he owns all of the cloak and the other says that he owns half of it, the first takes an oath that he owns at least 3/4 of the cloak.  The other person swears that he owns at least 1/4 of the cloak.  The cloak is thus split between them.   

If two people are riding an animal or if one person is leading and the other is riding an animal and both claim that the animal belongs to them, each takes and oath that he does not own less than half of the animal.  The animal is shared between them equally.  

If they both admit that the cloak is jointly owned, it is split between them without the formality of an oath.  One must actually pick up the item or have found the item in their domain to claim the item as their own.  Seeing a lost item is not enough to claim ownership.  

Similar to a found object, if two people are holding an object and both say that they purchased it, each swears that he owns at least half of the item and the item is shared equally between them.   And if witnesses are present, there is no need for people to take an oath.

The Gemara expounds upon our Mishna, teaching us that there is no need to formalize more than is necessary.  If two people are claiming equal ownership of an item and their claims could be valid, we believe them.  

This beginning of Bava Metzia is a perfect introduction to a masechet that discusses monetary halachot based on Torah law.  

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Bava Kamma 119: What Counts as Robbery?

Today marks the end of Bava Kamma.  We begin the daf with more discussion of what can be bought from whom.  Can people who have robbed in the past be trusted when they are selling what may be their own personal items?  What about informers?  The Gemara then turns its attention to verses that comment on robbery.  What happens to the soul of a robber?  Can a robber ever be trusted?  Does G-d have special punishments for those who rob?

We then learn more about the women, minors and slaves who are not permitted to sell anything in case their goods were stolen from their husbands.  There were exceptions stated in our Mishna, and the Gemara expounds on these circumstances.   Different communities have different customs.  In some places, women would be permitted to sell small items in order to buy materials needed for a cap.

We learn from a note in Steinsaltz that women would wear a kerchief over their heads covered by a cap made of wool or another material to cover their hair.  The Gemara discusses the significant expense of olives in the Galilee, which would push men to have their wives sell olives in the market.  In another place women would throw their jewelry at a charity collector/scholar.  It is said that this was permitted because in that place jewelry was thought of as minor items.  The rabbi's sensitivity to cultural differences is evident here.

Our final Mishna of Bava Kamma is introduced.  It teaches that strands of wood found by a launderer belong to the launderer, but strands of wool found by a carder, one who creates textiles, belong to the customer.  A launderer can take no more than three threads. If they are black threads on a white garment, however, the launderer may take them all.  A tailor must return to the customer a thread long enough to sew with and a piece of fabric more than 3x3 fingerbreadths.  A carpenter owns the shavings left by an adze, but not those left by an axe.  And if the work is done in the customer's domain, even the sawdust belongs to the customer.

The remainder of our daf picks apart this Mishna to understand exactly what is robbery and what is permitted within the realm of one's work. The Gemara also introduces the question of whether people working a field are permitted to take what is left on the ground.  The rabbis agree that it depends on how stringent their boss might be regarding ownership of that material.

Overall, it seems clear that the rabbis are interested in creating rules that simplify people's lives.  They are also aware of the importance of minutae in these debates.  The rabbis are interested in helping ordinary people feel confident about what they own and what they lend.  Through all of Bava Kamma I have become aware of a coordinated system that addresses issues of ownership, property damage/loss, and robbery.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Bava Kamma 118: More Conditions of Repayment; Who May Sell at All

Today's daf introduces four new Mishnayot.  Three of these are in amud (a).  

First, we are told that when a person robs someone or borrows money from him or deposits an item together with that person, the item must be returned in the physical place where the transaction took place.  If it happened in a settled area, the item cannot be returned in an unsettled area.  However, if there was a condition that the recipient return the item to the owner in an unsettled area, it is permitted.  The rabbis do not want people to put themselves in high risk situations where the item might be stolen.  The desert is considered to be a dangerous place as it is generally uninhabited.

Our next Mishna teaches that if a person says, "I robbed you" or "You lent me money" or "we deposited money together" and then "... and I don't know whether or not I paid you back", he is liable to pay back the money that still might be owed.  However, if he expresses uncertainty about whether or not he robbed, lent money to, or deposited money with another person, then he is exempt from payment.  The Gemara notes that an uncertain claim exempts a person from payment.

The third Mishna in today's daf tells us that a person who steals a lamb from a flock and then returns it without telling the owner that he returned it - and then the lamb died or was stolen, the thief is liable to pay restitution for the lamb.  However, if the owner never noticed that the lamb was missing at all, the thief is exempt from payment.  The Gemara describes the different understandings of this Mishna by Rav, Shmuel, Rabbi Yochanan and Rav Chisda.  Each of them attempts to explain what conditions are necessary for exemption and for liability. 

The fourth Mishna in today's daf says that one may not purchase wool, milk, or kids from the shepherds who tend flocks for others.  Similarly, it is prohibited to purchase wood and produce from produce watchmen.  While one may not purchase merchandise from women, minors or slaves unless it is clear that they truly own that merchandise, there are exceptions.  It is permitted to purchase wooden good from women when one is in Judea and linen goods from women when one is in the Galilee and calves from women in the Sharon.  One may purchase eggs and chickens from anyone anywhere, as it is not likely that one would steal these things.  The Gemara explores what number of sheep might be purchased in one transaction.  It also considers where a person should be (in the city or in the desert) when such purchases are completed.

The directives regarding women, minors and slaves helps us understand how men have held power for so long in so many parts of the world.  It is one thing to say that one person owns another person.  It is another thing entirely to deprive that disadvantaged person from accessing the means to emancipation.  If women and children and slaves cannot own merchandise and thus cannot make money from those things, then they are restricted to their inferior status indefinitely.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Bava Kamma 117: Rav Kahana's Rebirth: Trickery and Sneakiness

As they continue to understand how and when to reimburse victims of robbery, our rabbis discuss when an action is fined and when the consequence of breaking a halacha is enough punishment.  We are reminded that if the larger criminal action is punishable by death, any other punishment - a fine for stealing, for example - for another crime committed along the way is null.  An example is when a person's wine is stolen and used toward a libation toward idol worship.  In such a case, the death penalty trumps the fine that would be assigned for stealing the wine.  The rabbis question in which cases the victim should be reimbursed for his loss, even though the robber is punished with death.

When a person is coerced by Gentiles to commit a crime, it is usually necessary for that person to reimburse the victim of theft.  The Gemara provides us with a number of short scenarios which act as examples of such cases.  

The Gemara dives into a narrative about Rav Kahana on the topic of one Jew saying he was going to show another Jew's straw to Gentile authorities.  Rav insisted that he refrain.  We learn that this is because a Jew who brings to the attention of Gentile authorities any problem within the Jewish community is putting the lives of many Jews at risk.  The Jew responded to Rav by saying that he certainly would go to the authorities.  Hearing this rude and dangerous response to Rav, Rav Kahana broke the Jew's neck.  Rav suggested that the new Greek authorities would punish Rav Kahana for murder, and that he should go Eretz Israel.  He should study with Rabbi Yochanan for seven years without raising any difficulties about Rabbi Yochanan's teachings.

Rav Kahana went to Eretz Israel and made it clear to Reish Lakish, who was reviewing Rabbi Yochanan's lecture, that he had a number of difficulties with that lecture.  Reish Lakish then told Rabbi Yochanan that a lion had ascended from Bavel, and that Rabbi Yochanan should be ready for this new person at the next day's lecture.  

Rav Kahana was seated in the first row that day, but he raised no difficulties.  Each day, Rav Kahana was seated back by one row as he listened silently to the lectures.  After seven days he was in the back row of the academy.  Rabbi Yochanan told Reish Lakish that his lion had become a fox (he was not knowledgeable).  Rav Kahana decided that each row that he moved back represented one year of time meant to be spent learning quietly and respectfully from Rabbi Yochanan.  He began raising difficulties and he was moved again to the first row.

Rabbi Yochanan was sitting on seven pillows.  He removed one pillow for each difficulty raised by Rav Kahana that could not be answered.  Finally he was sitting on the ground in deference to this new pupil.  He called his students to lift his eyebrows so that he could see Rav Kahana and they did this with a silver eye brush.  I cannot quite imaging what this silver eye brush looked like.  When he saw Rav Kahana's smirk - caused by a birth defect that widens the corners of the mouth - he was offended and Rav Kahana died as punishment for offending his teacher.  

The rabbis then explained to him that Rav Kahana was not smirking.  Rabbi Yochanan went to Rav Kahana's burial cave and saw a serpent circling it; its tail in its mouth.  Rabbi Yochanan begged the serpent three times to open its mouth and kill him.  When the serpent finally opened its mouth, Rabbi Yochanan begged mercy and then raised Rav Kahana from the dead.

Rabbi Yochanan said that if he had know that Rav Kahana looked this way, he would not have been offended.  He invited Rav Kahna back to the study hall.  Rav Kahana asked that Rabbi Yochanan request divine mercy so that he would not die again, he would join his teacher.

What a bizarre story!  Are we to understand that a person can bring another person back to life?  Or was the death meant to be a spiritual death?  or a death of excommunication and isolation from one's community and thus no ability to fulfill many of the mitzvot?  Are we to believe that one should sneakily defy one's teacher's instructions?  Humiliate one's elder teachers?  Shouldn't Rav Kahana have been learning humility and discipline rather than learning how to teach others that he was the most knowledgable person in the room?  Very disturbing.

The Gemara then turns back to cases of individuals who are robbed of items that are not theirs to lose.  They consider what should be done when a robber steals money set aside to redeem captives.  In such a case, the money is not reimbursed by the person responsible for watching over that money, for they are potentially redeeming captives in that very moment.  Other examples demonstrate that the rabbis do not want to punish those who chase thieves, even though the Torah might suggest otherwise.   This is a wonderful example of our rabbis interpreting Torah law toward their vision of societal cohesion.

A new Mishna tells us that if a river floods a field that has been stolen, the robber may say to its owner, "that which is yours is before you".  Thus he can give back the field's ownership.  This is because flooding would have happened whether or not the field was robbed, and so that victim has not suffered a loss due to the robber but due to natural causes.

The Gemara begins a conversation about why a robber would not owe the victim another drier field.  In this discussion, the rabbis consider the hermeneutical principal of amplifications followed by restrictions followed by amplifications.  This comes from Leviticus (5:21-24): If any one sin, and commit a trespass against the Lordand deal falsely with his neighbour in a matter of deposit... or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall restore it in full".  "... sin... trespass... deal falsely with his neighbour," is an amplification.  "In a matter of deposit" is a restriction.  "...anything about which he has sworn falsely..." is another amplification.  The rabbis end our daf deciding whether or not the "deposit" refers only to movable property.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Bava Kamma 116: Examples of Complex Ownership

A number of examples help the rabbis explain their understandings of our last Mishna.  

When a barrel of honey and a barrel of wine crash into each other and the honey is salvaged, the wine that is left in the barrel is now subject to ritual impurity.  It may or may not be permitted as a pleasant aroma as wine is sprinkled as an air freshener

If there was a condition stated ("I'll salvage your honey and you pay for my wine"), it is binding unless the honey owner says that he was "fooling".  Similarly, a person fleeing prison agreeing to pay a dinar to a ferry driver could say, "I was fooling around with you" and get out of the contract.

The Gemara provides us with another example: two donkeys are washed away and one is worth 100 dinars. If that donkey is rescued by the other donkey's owner, should the rescuer be reimbursed for his own loss? What if his own donkey rescues itself?

And another example: where a lion is following a caravan in the desert and a donkey is fed to the lion each night.  When one of those donkeys returns, healthy, should its owner reimburse the others who have lost their donkeys to the hungry lion?  In this case the rabbis note that sometimes good things just happen.  It could have been G-d's will that one donkey is saved.

And yet another example: a labourer is hired to deliver a plate of food to a person who is ill but that person dies before his arrival.  Is the labourer still entitled to his payment?

The rabbis continually honour:

  • contracts which have been made prior to the incident at hand, 
  • the rights of labourers who are hired hourly rather than per job, and 
  • payment for effort that has been made rather than payment only for completed work

The Gemara continues to share various examples.  First, a caravan has been attacked by bandits.  They discuss how a ransom is determined (the value of all people's items), and how that changes if a scout has been hired to protect them (each person contributes to the scout).    Donkey drivers are different, for their responsibilities include guarding donkey and their interests are aligned.  Sailors might have to throw things overboard if their ship is up against bad weather.  The rabbis discuss how ownership and reimbursement of items is considered in this type of case, as well.  In all cases, negligence negates the contract.  For example, a ship must be travelling along the expected route.  That includes the different routes that are taken in the months of Nissan and Tishri.

If a person claims that he will rescue the property from a bandit, he is entitled to ownership of that property.  But if he simply rescues the items without a verbal 'contract', he shares the salvaged items with the other victims.  Business partners - joint owners of property - are also discussed in today's daf.

A new Mishna notes that if one robs a field and then thugs rob the robber of the field, the robber must find another field to return to the original victim.  If the thugs were part of a disaster, where entire areas were overcome, then the robber need not return land, for the land would have been lost to the owner regardless of the robbery.  The Gemara wonders about the circumstances of such a calamity.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Bava Kamma 114: Retrieving Bees and Other Stories About Stolen Items

After spending more attention on how Jews and Gentiles can sell property to each other, we are introduced to a new Mishna.  Of note is that Gentiles require only one witness while Jews require two.

Our new Mishna teaches that when a customs collector seizes a person's donkey and replaces it with one stolen from another Jew - or if a bandit does the same with a garment -  then the stolen item now belongs to that person.  The Rambam and the Rosh argue about whether or not such an item must be returned to its original owner or not.  Similarly, it is permitted to keep items salvaged from a river or a fire.  As long as the original owner considers the item to be lost to him/her, then the item need not be returned.

Further, Rabbi Yochanan ben Baroka taught that women and minors may act as witnesses in cases where swarms of bees leave one person's field and enter another's.  The bees' owners may enter that field and retrieve the bees.  Those owners are not permitted to remove entire branches, however, when they find their bees.  If anything is damaged in the rescue effort, the owner must pay for the damages.  Rabbi Yochanan ben Baroka's son, Rabbi Yishmael, taught that a branch may be cut off in this case and payment should be made after the fact.

Of course the Gemara must examine how it is possible that a donkey or garment would not be returned.  What if the owner did not despair the item because he believed that the Gentile courts would return it to him?  What if he believed that the Jewish court would seize it and return it to him?  And what if the item had become susceptible to ritual impurity?  The Gemara then focuses on which rabbi might have authored this Mishna.  Determining the author of the Mishna would be useful because the author's other rulings might help us understand his intention in writing this Mishna.  One of the most significant questions is whether/how a thief might be like a robber.

In discussing the swarm of bees and the validity of testimony of women and minors, the rabbi share a story where a person proves his membership in the priesthood through the memory of riding home from school on his father's shoulders and then having someone remove his tunic and ritually bathe him so that he could partake of teruma.   A slave who was able to partake of teruma would not have been at school, and so this memory was valid. 

Another new Mishna: If a person finds his stolen property (vessels, scrolls) in another person's possession - and there are rumours that that person has stolen his possessions - he is paid the amount that the robber swears he paid for the items.  Without the rumours, the victim is assumed to have sold his property to others who sold that property to the alleged robber.

The Gemara suggests a number of circumstances that describe the victim's possible motives to suggest such a thing.  They also consider the value of the items and the burglar's risk-taking - a homeowner is permitted to kill a burglar in his/her home.  This line of reasoning would require the victim to be a homeowner.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Bava Kamma 113: Not Showing Up to Court; Customs, Taxes and Religious Differences

Our daf begins with a discussion about going to court.  Actually going to court.  We learn that people are given a letter of ostracization if they do not attend court as required.  The document can be torn up if a person does come to court at a later date.  Is it enough for a person to miss one court date?  Does it depend on whether they live in the city or in the country?  Those in the city are assumed to be able to get to court easily.  But are they formally ostracized if they miss the first Monday at court?  Or are they permitted to attend court the following Thursday?  Or the following Monday?  The rabbis disagree about when a formal letter is written.

The rabbis do not expect people to attend court during the months of Nisan or Tishrei, on the erevs before Festivals or Shabbat. People might forget about their court dates.  

A new Mishna teaches us that one may not exchange larger coins for smaller ones from the trunk of customs collectors or the purse of tax collectors.  People were told not to take charity from them, either.  Taking money from their homes or their own personal funds is permitted.

The Gemara tells us about the tax collector role: the King would appoint agents to collect monies from the population, and that was considered to be necessary and good by our Sages.  However, tax collectors might collect monies beyond what was suggested by the King.  Or the King might insist that all citizens pay taxes for something that the rabbis would deem unnecessary.  

It is clear that Jews are not permitted to avoid paying customs.  Shmuel said that “the law of the kingdom is the law”.  However, our daf moves into conversations about how Jews and Gentiles might be treated similarly or differently.  This conversation is quite disturbing to our modern understandings of equitable and fair treatment of all people.  The rabbis seem to be concerned with the idea that a Gentile might think badly of Jews; simultaneously rabbis find proofs to support the notion that Jews must protect other Jews and that there is no need to protect Gentiles.  

To understand this better, we should consider the context.  Jews were one of many sects of that time period, each attempting to establish its authority.  Gentiles were almost always in power politically and nationally.  They were often cruel to the Jews in their lands but sometimes benevolent.  Jews were very suspicious of Gentiles - they were seen as threats. 
Further, the Torah dictated different laws for Jews and Gentiles, men and women, children and adults, neighbours and family members.  Of course Gentiles would be treated differently from Jews.  

Today's post-modern sensibilities do not allow for the essentialism that our daf describes.  It is not comfortable or easy to read.  But it is helpful toward understanding the realities of our ancestors' lives.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Bava Kamma 112: Children's Obligations to Their Flawed Parents

Today's daf continues to ask questions about what a child is responsible for if a father dies having stolen something.  The rabbis are comparing stolen items with items that have been loaned.  How are children obligated after their father's death if he borrowed a cow?  What if he stole that cow?

The rabbis consider the ways that a child might be permitted to use that cow, differences based on the age of the child (a minor or an adult), which day of the week it was, whether the family was 'important', and many other factors.

The analogies used by our rabbis are imperfect.  How might they be necessary to help these great thinkers to analyze the question at hand?  And why is this particular question worthy of such detailed debate?

It seems that our rabbis are aided by the creation of categories - principles, ideas, related halachot.  They look for patterns in order to identify a larger schema.  In doing this, they affirm their belief that all of the Torah - every letter - is meaningful because it is of Divine creation.  The problem is that sometimes the categories are flawed.  The proof texts that our rabbis use are not always convincing.  Further, the categories themselves sometimes seem imperfect, especially from our perspective two thousand odd years later.  

As to the question of a father who dies having stolen an item, my guess is that this question speaks to a larger issue: do we honour a parent who steals? In what way should we do this?  How much responsibility must a child take for his/her parent's behaviour?  Should a child benefit from a parent's bad behaviour?  How long must one honour one's parents?

These questions are still important in today's modern world.  And when the rabbis discuss exactly when a child is responsible for the cow stolen by their deceased father, they are also speaking to when how we should treat property, creditors, and our parents.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Bava Kamma 111: Robbery to Feed One's Children

Our daf shares two distinct sections.  The first ends Perek IV.  The second, amud (b), introduces Perek X.  Perek IV focused on stolen items, false oaths, and the return of stolen property.  Perek X begins with a focus on the motive of the robber and his family circumstances.

Amud (a) walks us through a robber returning stolen property to a priest.  How should this be managed?  What if the robber approaches the 'wrong' priest on watch?  How is the robber to manage this return?  How is the priest to deal with this robber and his offering/s?  One of the principles that we learn is that the money must be offered before the guilt offering is offered.  The money is the principle value of the stolen item plus the one-fifth payment.

Amud (b) begins with a Mishna: When a person robs food and feeds it to his children,or when a person robs something and leaves it to his children and then dies, the children are exempt from payment to the victim after their father's death.  If the stolen item could serve as a legal guarantee of a loan, the children are liable to pay after their father's death.

The rabbis consider the timing of this crime.  Have the victims already despaired the loss of their stolen item?  What is the domain of an heir in comparison with the domain of a purchaser?  The stolen object must exist for it to be returned to the victim, and if it has been consumed it no longer exists. The rabbis wonder about the obligations of children who have lost their father.  If the item is a cow used to plow, can it be used after the father's death?  And what about the honour of their father?

Our new Perek promises to share new and interesting legal conundrums regarding restitution.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Bava Kamma 110: More on Priests, Robbery, Inheritance; Questions about Rabbinical Leanings

Continuing with their analysis of our last Mishna, the rabbis walk through a number of circumstances where a father who is a priest has been robbed by his son - who is also a priest.  In today's daf, we are introduced to what seem like endless possible scenarios.  If the priest is unable to perform some of his duties, how might that change the punishment?  If the brothers are owed a certain number of animals, how might that change the punishment?  

I am finding this portion of Bava Kamma simultaneously overwhelming - so much information, so many details - and absolutely tedious.  How many different permutations and possibilities must the rabbis present before they move on to another idea or topic?

One question this raises for me is why the rabbis spent significant amounts of time on particular topics.  Why, especially when there is no longer a functioning Temple and thus there is no role for the Priests, why must we examine their obligations and their lives with such excruciating detail?  And why do the rabbis almost ignore questions that loom large for me - the servitude of people; the servitude of animals?

Are the rabbis' areas of focus based upon:

  • their areas of interest?
  • the topics that are most simple to discuss in a legal framework?
  • the most pressing issues in their communities?
  • the topics that reflected a 'higher' or more important topic?
  • the topics that were of interest to community members who held power?
  • the topics that traditionally were of interest?
  • the topics that reinforced their sense of status and importance?
  • etc. etc

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Bava Kamma 109: Robbing One's Father; Consequences After a Death

Our blog begins the Gemara on our last Mishna, introduced in daf 108 (b):

If a bailee swears an oath to the owner that the owner's deposit has been lost but witnesses say otherwise, the bailee owes the principle of the deposit.  If the bailee admits on his own that he took a false oath, he must pay the principle plus the one-fifth payment and a guilt offering.   If the bailee swears an oath that the owner's deposit was stolen but witnesses say that it was the bailee who stole it, the bailee must pay double the principal.  If the bailee admits to his false oath, the pays the principle, the one-fifth payment and a guilt offering. 

Our notes teach us that full atonement, achieved through the one-fifth payment and the guilt offering, cannot be done until a person admits his/her own guilt.  If witnesses are the ones to identify one's guilt, one lives with the weight of his/her unabsolved guilt.

The Mishna continues: if one swears falsely that he did not rob his own father and then his father dies, followed by the son admitting his guilt, we have a conundrum.  The principle and the one-fifth payment should be paid to the heirs of his father's estate.  But he is an heir.  The Mishna instructs him to pay the principal and the one-fifth payment to his fathers sons or brothers and then he brings a guilt-offering and forgoes his own share.  If he does not have the funds to do this, he borrows the amount of the stolen item.  The creditors of that payment are paid back in part from the son's share of his inheritance.  

Finally, the Mishna teaches that when a father dies after vowing to his son that  the son may not derive any benefit from his property - it is konam, like a forbidden offering - the son inherits the property anyway.  This is because the property no longer belongs to the father after he dies.  If the father vows that his son may not derive benefit from his property in his life or after his death, he does not inherit - her returns the inheritance to other sons or heirs.  If he cannot afford to survive without his share, he borrows money in the amount of his inheritance and pays the creditors back from his share.

We learn from a note that the creditors are repaid only when he declares that the inheritance is forbidden to him.  Further, Meiri suggests that the paying off a loan is not actually deriving benefit from one's father's property.  The creditors collect this without the son's involvement from the estate itself. 

The Gemara focuses on what seem to be more trivial points: 

  • whether one can forgive a debt to oneself
  • whether it is possible for Jews to have no relatives
  • whether this Mishna refers to a convert
  • whether this Mishna could apply to a female convert
  • whether this MIshna could apply to a priest in one of a number of roles
and more.

For me, what is most intriguing is the idea that a son would rob his father and lie about it, and that a father would try to block his son from inheriting his property.  We are taught that children must honour their parents.  "Honour" is defines very specifically.  We are taught that we are not allowed to steal, and robbery/stealing is also laid out clearly in the Talmud.  These can be capital crimes; they are very serious and discussed at length.  So how is it that we are learning how to deal the consequences of a child who actually steals from his own parent?  How is it that we are discussing "payment of the principal plus one-fifth payment" and other comparatively trivial consequences?  Perhaps we are being given a hint about the actual workings of this ancient society rather than the model of good behaviour.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Bava Kamma 107: Belief in the Power of Chutzpah

When a person denies robbery completely, he is believed.  When a person admits to part of a robbery, he must pay back the amount admitted to and then take an oath regarding his claim of not owning more.  

Rabat teaches hazakah en adam me'z paan liane baal have  a person will not be so bold to deny his guilt to the faces of those he owes.  He gives the robber the benefit of the doubt: perhaps he'll pay the full sum later.

Rash explains the expression differently. Perhaps when the lender did something so generous - offering a loan, which had no interest - the borrower would not be able to stomach lying to the lender's face.  Others suggest that this ruling applies to circumstances other than loans, meaning that the accused was not always facing a wonderfully generous person.  The borrow simply can't lie in front of someone who knows the truth.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Bava Kamma 106: Questions About Exemption

The Gemara describes a number of different situations where it could be unclear whether the person who has robbed another person is exempt from at least part of his punishment.  

  • one states that his robbery was in fact a loan
  • a bailee says that the owner's deposit was lost
  • one admits that he has taken a false oath
  • one admits liability
  • one is a thief rather than a robber
  • the robber, a minor, is not accused until he is an adult
  • etc.
In different circumstances the rabbis consider numerous factors including whether the oath was taken, where the oath was taken, whether many oaths were taken and then retracted or just one oath was taken and retracted, whether the stolen item was deposited, stolen or sold, details about possible witnesses, and many others.

They also consider consequences, including exemption, paying the principal and paying the additional one-fifth payment.

One of the more interesting questions is whether or not an animal must be properly ritually slaughtered if its mother dies while pregnant.  Of course, the rabbis share different opinions about this and every other question raised.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Bava Kamma 105: Robbers, Witnesses, Bailees and False Oaths

We continue to learn from the rabbis' discussions about robbers who take false oaths but admit to the primary feature of a claim.

The Gemara wonders if our last Mishna demonstrated concern about a stolen item that is worth less than one peruta appreciating in value.  If the item gains in worth until it is more than one peruta, that could change whether or not the victim has to find the robber him/herself.  In their discussion, they refer to Rava who wonders whether an item worth less than one peruta can in fact be stolen.  This dilemma is compared with another of Rava's dilemmas: whether or not a nazarite can shave his two remaining hairs one hair at a time.  If one of the hairs falls out, has he fulfilled his obligation of shaving his head?  Rava's resolution: if there is no hair, there is no mitzvah of shaving.  The rabbis then must decide whether one is a nazarite ab initio.

The Gemara continues to explore Rava's dilemmas.  There is the dilemma about a punctured barrel that is sealed by sediment.  Is the barrel subject to ritual impurity, like it would be if it the hole was plugged by a vine?  Clay must be smeared from the sides of the hole toward its centre to protect against ritual impurity.  The clay ensures that the seal will stay in place.    

Another dilemma: if one robs another of matzo and Peach ends, can one divide benefit from the matzah?  Does the robber say, "That which is yours is before you"?  Is it fair to return a stolen item that has lost its value completely?  Rava adds to the dilemma: what if the robber took a false oath concerning the robbery?  Rabba thinks about this dilemma regarding a stolen ox.  When a robber denies a claim of monetary matter, he must bring the additional one-fifth payment and make a guilt offering.  

In order to understand the conflicting baraitot and opinions, the rabbis note that their cases were referring to more specific circumstances that would explain the seeming contradictions.

The Gemara then considers false oaths taken by witnesses.  Ben Azzai says that there are three possible false oaths.  These suggest that it is possible that the witness took an oath in truth:

  • the witness recognized the lost time but not its finder
  • the witness recognized the finder but not the lost item
  • the witness did not recognize either the finder nor the lost item

An item that causes financial loss is considered to have monetary value.

The rabbis quote a number of sources that suggest the transgressions that occur when a bailee falsely denies a claim concerning a deposit.  The bailee is considered to be a robber in this circumstance.  Our daf ends with descriptions of situations that might lead a bailee to make such a decision.  The rabbis walk us through the potential consequences of those actions.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Bava Kamma 104: Witnesses and Legitimate Agents

If a robber steals from another person and takes a false oath about those actions, the robber is obligated to find the victim, wherever s/he is, and return the item plus penalties.  However, if a robber admits to the victim that he has stolen that item and does not take a false oath about his actions, he need not return the item on his own.  In fact, it is up to the victim to find the robber and take back the stolen item him/herself.  The item is considered to be on loan until the victim retrieves it.

In a similar vein, the Gemara discusses the role of an agent.  If a person has gone to the bother of authorizing an agent in front of witnesses to act on his/her behalf, shouldn't that agent be permitted to do whatever that person wants the agent to do?  Why should an agent's abilities be limited? The rabbis agree that a debtor who pays his debt to an agent has fulfilled his obligation.

The Gemara discusses complex circumstances which pose challenges to this ruling.  Who is permitted to appoint an agent?  Who is permitted to act on behalf of a debtor?  Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Elazar agree that an agent appointed in the presence of witnesses is a legally recognized agent. Any case that contradicts this assertion must have not met the criteria regarding witnesses.

And what if an agent appears with a 'sign' - perhaps a signature or a stamp - of the creditor?  What if witnesses attest to the validity of the 'signature'?  The rabbis teach us that such a document does not validate the agent.  Only a document signed by witnesses who state that the agent has been appointed can be used as a valid document.  This particular rule would seem to require specific knowledge by all parties involved.  How awful to be penalized for trusting a false agent simply because one was unaware of the halacha.  How educated was the general community about these rules?  Was there a given understanding not to trust the ancient version of an 'encyclopedia salesman'?  or in today's day, a Nigerian bank account holder who contacts us via email?

The Gemara then turns to the question of the remaining one-fifth payment if it is not paid along with the principal value of the stolen item.  Must the robber continue to pursue the victim with that money if he has sworn a false oath?  What if the victim has died?  What if a father admits but a son does not admit?  How are we to understand whether a past rabbi was referring to a derivation or money owed, based on the similar words used in his interpretation?  Like other small details, the rabbis insist on understanding the minutea as well as the larger principals based on Torah law.  That is why it is surprising to me that other details, like the experience of the young girl who has been sold into slavery or raped, are not examined with the same degree of scrutiny and care.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Bava Kamma 103: Partial Payments; False Oaths and Multiple Payments

Our daf begins with a clarification about timing.  Examples are provided regarding purchasing a field in the name of another person.  The rabbis seem to agree that witnesses must hear the full condition, including all future plans that might affect ownership (ex. but I intended to write another document later including someone else's name!) at the time of the purchase.  If not, the seller might be compelled to sell the field a second time.

An example is provided regarding the sale of flax.  Rav Kahana brought his own situation to Rav - he had given money to a salesperson for flax, and the sale was arranged but the flax was not picked up immediately.  In the intervening time, the flax rose in value and was sold at a higher price, all of the money intended to be given to Rav Kahana.  But doesn't this appear as if it is interest?  It was determined that it is permitted to make arrangements for produce, but not for money.  Any increase in payment would appear to be interest, which is not permitted.

A new Mishna teaches that a person who steals something that is worth at least one pert and takes a false oath that he is innocent - followed by an admission of guilt, he must bring the money to the victim even if he is far away in Medea.  The payment will be the principal value pule an additional one-fifth payment.   The payment must be given directly to the victim and not his son nor his agent.  If the victim dies, the payment is returned to his heirs.  If the principal or the one-fifth payment is not paid, the robber is not pursued as long as he is forgiven that restitution by the victim.  If the victim does not forgive any part of the payment, he should pursue the robber to repay his debt.  If the robber falsely swears that he has paid that missing part of the payment, the missing payment is now considered his new principal debt, and he owes that amount plus one-fifth.  This can continue until the debt is worth less than one peruta.  This principal holds for any case where one lies about a debt, as Leviticus (5:21-24) tells us that the principle plus one-fifth plus a guilt offering is owed.

The Gemara questions whether or not an original false oath is required and whether this Mishna reflects the opinion of Rabbi Tarfon or Rabbi Akiva.  Rabbi Tarfon teaches that a robber can leave the stolen item between himself and the victim and then withdraw.   Rabbi Akiva is more strict, and requires that the robber pay back up to five sellers who say that the item had been stolen from them, regardless of a false oath of innocence.  These two acts of restitution are mutually exclusive - we can't place an item in between five possible victims and the robber when each victim is meant to receive full payment.  To be clear, this does mean that if a robber admits that he stole 100 dinars from one of two people and no-one knows who the victim was, the robber is to pay 100 dinars to each of the two possible victims.

We end our daf with questions about pious men who took false oaths of innocence.  This line of questioning is different, as it clearly demonstrates empathy for the plight of a person - even a rabbi - who sins but then takes responsibility and changes his deportment.  

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Bava Kamma 102: Benefitting from Unusual Shemita Produce?: More Deals Gone Wrong

We know that it is forbidden to benefit from produce grown during Shemita, the Sabbatical Year. Our daf begins with arguments about what might be permitted to be transferred into the Shemita year - wine used for something other than drinking?  Produce or other items used to help clean/soak/launder?  Produce used medicinally in a poultice? Wine or something like wine that is used as a perfume for the home?

We learn from this about some of the creative practices used by our ancient relatives.  They would soak their clothing with wine or charcoal to help with cleaning.  They might have softened flax in this manner, as well.  They scented their homes - at least, the more wealthy families scented their homes - with something as pungent and fermented as wine.  What must their homes have smelled like without that added scent?  It is notable that these questions are asked at all.  

This reminds me that the rabbis looked to things that were 'unusual' as exceptions to the rule.  For example, one cannot carry on Shabbat unless one is carrying in an unusual manner.  Shabbat is thus distinguished from other days.  Similarly, the rabbis wonder whether 'unusual' use of Shemita produce might be permissible.  A reasonable question.

The Gemara considers those who go against the terms of their agreements.  When loans are agreed upon and then conflict arises; when a dyer errs in his work; when an agent buys the wrong thing.  Damages are assessed based on the value of the item before the exchange of items.  As well, the rabbis consider whether and by how much the item has been devalued or enhanced.  These circumstances are compared with those of men who consecrate more than their own property to the Temple - their wife's clothing; their children's belonging.  Are there times when individuals are compelled to sell their belongings through a third party, perhaps if the Exhilarch were involved (or said to be involved)?

Beyond providing us with strict guidelines on how to assess damages, these are deeper questions of where ownership begins and ends.  Who is permitted to benefit from which resources?  How do we assign both responsibility and blame to individuals for their actions within a society?  The rabbis dissect different cases piece by piece in an effort to identify (possibly Divine) patterns and principles to guide our behaviour.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Bava Kamma 100: Damage Done By Dying Wool

To prove that it is praiseworthy to follow even more than the letter of the law, Rav Yosef teaches the meaning of each phrase in Exodus (18:20): And you will show them the way wherein they must walk and the work that they must do.

  • "And you will show them" refers to the core of existence, which is Torah study;
  • "the way" is a reference to acts of kindness, as we emulate G-d's kind ways; 
  • "wherein" speaks of burial of the dead;
  • "they must walk" means that we visit the sick;
  • "and the work" reminds us that we must keep the law;
  • "that they must do" tells us that we should do even more than the letter of the law in our actions.
The rabbis discuss whether extra care should be taken to ensure that rabbis judge appropriately when it comes to the value of a dinar.  The Gemara reminds us that Bechorot 28 (b) instructs judges to reimburse people from their own personal accounts if they judge incorrectly (acquits someone guilty, sentences an innocent person, mistakes the status of pure or impure items).

Examples of craftspeople or others damaging objects due to their direct actions.  This might be done by dying wool red instead of black or black instead of red; by invalidating someone's grapevine by joining it with diverse kinds (which is forbidden) in different ways.  The rabbis understand that restitution must be paid for damages done through direct action.  However, they concede that in some circumstances, damages are paid for indirectly causing damage, as well.

A new Mishna ends amud (b).  It tells us that when wool is burned in the cauldron while it is being dyed, the dyer gives the owner the value of the lost wool.  If the wool was dyed incorrectly - the dye soaked in unevenly or was unattractive - the wool may still have been enhanced; its value increased.  In that case, the owner pays the dyer any of the dyer's expenses that exceed the enhancement.   

If the wool was dyed red instead of black or black instead of red, Rabbi Meir says that the dyer pays the owner the value of his/her wool.  Rabbi Yehuda says that if the value of the enhancement exceeds the dyer's expenses, the owner pays for the dyer's expenses.  If the expenses exceed the enhancement, the value of the enhancement is provided.  These considerations reflect the rabbis' understanding of what constitutes payment for a craftsperson's work.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Bava Kamma 99: Paying Craftspeople for Damaged Work; Free, Expert Work and Liability

We have just learned that a craftsperson is responsible for damages made to an item that s/he was hired to repair or build.  Today's daf brings in the question of payment.  We are obliged to pay a craftsperson for their work on the day that that work is done.  It is forbidden to wait even until the following morning to pay someone for their work.  Would it be permitted to restrict or delay payment to a craftsperson who damaged one's property?  The rabbis consider this question.

The rabbis consider a number of different circumstances including that of a woman who agrees to be betrothed to a craftsperson upon his completion of the task of creating golden earrings, bracelets, or necklaces for her.   But doesn't betrothal require the exchange of money?  Would the jewelry be thought of as money?  The rabbis question whether or not his work and return of the jewelry could be construed as a loan.  It is also debated whether or not loans are permissible to enact a betrothal.  And is the craftsperson's fashioning the jewelry would be worth at least one peruta, which is the minimum amount of money required to secure a betrothal?

The rabbis consider the possibility that the craftsperson adds a jewel of his own to the woman's property.  Is this a valid proposal?  The rabbis suggest that a craftsperson would have to say in advance of his work that he wishes to betroth the woman.  If he failed to do this, she would be betrothed on a loan (for she would owe him money until the item was returned to her; he 'loaned' her the payment for his work until she paid in full.

Using the example of a butcher who slaughters improperly, the rabbis move their conversation into the realm of professional conduct.  When a person hires a butcher to slaughter his/her animal, there is an understanding that the butcher is accepting the obligations to slaughter competently according to Jewish law.  

The Gemara provides a number of examples.  Sometimes 'expert' craftspeople have offered to do their work for free.  Are they exempt from liability when they err in their work?  Sometimes an 'expert' butcher will cut in the wrong spot or one who processes barley uses the wrong amount of water to wet the grain, spoiling the work.  The Gemara tells us that these craftspeople will have to provide proof of their expertise to exempt themselves from liability.  And regardless of their 'expertise', they are liable to pay for property that they have damaged.

Our daf ends with a conversation about one who finds that a coin is in fact not worth its weight, so to speak.  The bad coin should be brought to the person who tends to monetary exchange.  They are expected to go beyond the letter of the law, which suggests that she is responsible for this error to some degree.  Instead, the person who gave her this coin should exchange it for her.

Sometimes reading Talmud creates a picture in my mind of what life might have been like for these Jews.  I imagine that whatever pictures I conjure are quite inaccurate.  Talmud offers us the gift of a window into ancient living.  

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Bava Kamma 98: Indirect Actions and Liability

Mean-spirited actions that do not directly cause damage are exempt.  Amud (a) walks through a number of examples.  These include throwing someone's coins in translucent water,* slitting the ear of another person's cow,** hammering a person's coin,*** or hitting a person near their eye or ear where that person becomes blind or deaf.  In each of these cases, the action of a thoughtless or ill-willed person has led to damage; that damage was not caused immediately and directly by the action, however. 

The rabbis share cases where promissory notes must be rewritten by witnesses to reflect true financial loss due to an injury.  They debate whether or not items that cause financial loss hold intrinsic monetary value.  And what about promissory notes - what value do they hold?  The rabbis also consider when items are returned to their owners and when people face other consequences as well.  

Physical evidence of damage is required.  Produce that has rotted is not returned to its owner unless the rotted produce is understood to hold value.  In that case, the stolen produce is returned in addition to the consequence ordered by the court.  If all of the produce has rotted, and that rotten produce has no value, only the useful portion of the produce is returned to its owner.

A new Mishna teaches us that craftspeople are held responsible for damages that are done while they are repairing items like chests, boxes or cabinets.  They pay for the cost of the damage they have caused.  Similarly, one who demolishes or builds a wall is responsible for any damage done to the stones while working.  However, if the wall collapses from a different direction while he is working, he is not responsible for those damages.  Only damage done by stones that fall due to the force of his blows is his responsibility.  

The Gemara questions the differences between building a vessel that has been commissioned and repairing an vessel with a nail.  The rabbis consider the materials in question, likely wood, and they wonder exactly how much a craftsperson should be liable for in such circumstances.  Were they given the wood to use for the repair?   Or only the item to be repaired?  

* where one can easily find their coins, as opposed to murky waters
** where the cow cannot be used as a sacrifice but is otherwise useful
*** where the coin has changed shape but is adequate for other use

Monday, 5 September 2016

Bava Kamma 97: Slaves and Houses; Coins

The rabbis argue that it is not possible to compare theft of a Canaanite slave with theft of property.  Their primary concern is the value of the work done by a slave in his owner's absence.  But perhaps a slave costs more than he is worth, suggests Rav Nachman.  The rabbis suggest that it is rare that a slave does no labour.  Further, slaves should continue working while in another person's possession, for they should retain their work habits.  Very disturbing to discuss the ownership of people with such blunt disregard.

In the same vein, our rabbis then shift their conversation to focus on the use of a slave toward payment of a debt.  The rabbis recognize many issues with this action, especially the appearance of collecting interest on a loan.  They discuss the differences between utilizing property and utilizing one's slave toward payment of a debt.  The upkeep of a home is compared with the misuse of a slave's labour. 

The rabbis move quite easily back and forth between discussing those collecting payment and those who intend to rob.  

Moving on to the question of coins as payment, the rabbis consider how a damaged coin should be used.  Their conversation involves detail about governmental decrees regarding the prohibitions placed on coinage.  It would seem that the economy was kept in check depending on immigration and the relative cost of living through the production - and the cessation of production - of specific coins. Once coins were no longer permitted, they might continue to be in use elsewhere.  Or they might be recirculated again.  

The changing value of specific coins might also be in question regarding the redemption of second tithe produce.  The rabbis tell us about Meishan, which seems to have been a centre without much Torah knowledge.  This was a place where coins out of circulation in Jerusalem or Babylonia might be in use.  The rabbis are careful to ensure that people are permitted to use the coins that are in circulation in their provinces.  Coins cannot be desacralized for their use to redeem second tithe produce.  It important for the rabbis to encourage halachic practice that is not just valid, but achievable.  

Our daf ends with a conversation about coins in the time of Solomon and in the time of Abraham.  The rabbis teach that in the times of Solomon, coins were marked with the names of David and Solomon on one side and a picture of Jerusalem on the other.  In more ancient times, Abraham and Sarah were said to be on one side of the coin while a young couple, possible Isaac and Rachel (or possibly a youthful Abraham and Sarah) on the other.  The rabbis debate about whether images of people were allowed on coins in the time of Abraham and Sarah. for the Torah prohibition regarding images and idolatry had not been given yet.  Others wonder whether it might have been the names of our ancestors and not their images on the coins.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Bava Kamma 96: Enhancement and Devaluing While Stolen

At the start of our daf, the rabbis continue their conversation about items that have been enhanced after they have been stolen.  Sometimes those items are then sold.  Who owns those items?  How is value evaluated and how are transactions calculated in different circumstances?  The rabbis also wonder how they might evaluate things differently if the buyer, the robber or the victim were Jewish or Gentile.  They teach us that purchasing rights follow those of the seller - thus if one purchases from a Gentile, one has the rights to possession of that Gentile. 

the rabbis consider stolen items that have been changed and acquired.  Can the item be changed back to its form when it was stolen?  For example, a damaged lulav; earth that has been turned into a brick but not is not acquired so that it can still be returned; silver coins that have been discoloured or that have been turned to a bar of silver.  When are these items considered to be acquired?  The rabbis share a principle: All robbers pay for their stolen items at their value when they were stolen.  This familiar principle is argued yet again.  Rav Nachman tells Rava that he does not want to be judged on his own judgements.  At times, he will penalize a repeat criminal based on the enhanced value of the stolen items even though that is not his obligation.

A new Mishna tells us that animals and slaves will age while stolen, decreasing their value.  In such cases the rabbis argue that Canaanite slaves have never actually left the possession of their 'owners', and thus they have not changed in a way that would have been different if they were not stolen.  Similarly, stolen coins that have cracked, produce that has rotted and wine that has fermented are all compensated for at their value when stolen and not after having lost value.  A number of other stolen items are described similarly: 

  • a coin that has gone out of currency
  • teruma becomes tamei
  • matzah is unused after Pesach
  • an animal is disqualified for sacrifice or has been used toward performing a sin
  • an animal is to be stoned or gored for its behaviour while stolen
In all of these cases, the robber says, "That which is yours is before you" to the robbery victim.  The stolen item is returned as is.  This is because although the item has lost value, that loss is invisible.

The Gemara considers how to argue one baraita against another.  They also consider compromises in difficult cases, like when acquisition is uncertain.  Sometimes the value of an enhancement - or a new calf, born while stolen - is divided in half.  

When are oaths required?  When are oaths not necessary?  Canaanite slaves and land do not usually require oaths, according to the Rabbis.  Again, they are similar in that possession does not transfer, even when they are 'stolen'.  

Sometimes is seems that the rabbis are benefiting robbers through their leniency.  Why would this be, beyond attempts to directly translate Torah words into halacha?  Perhaps their societies were ones where robbers were poor and in need.  Hopefully we will learn more about what seems to be a difficult inconsistency.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Bava Kamma 95: Theft and Enhancement; Inheritance, Debts and Enhancement

Today's daf continues our rabbis' discussions about damages for stolen items in different circumstances.  We begin with a reminder about what to do when a stolen item should be given back but is not available - it has been 'used up', it has become part of another structure that cannot be unbuilt, or it is gone.  In such cases the thief pays for the cost of the item's value when it was stolen.  If an item has been 'enhanced' - a cow has had a calf or a sheep's wool has been dyed and used - both the stolen item and the enhancement are returned to the owner.  Rabbi Yehuda adds that the thief pays additional monies in the amount of the enhancement between the time of stealing and the time of the original's return.

Rabbis debate the how these laws might apply differently to a number of different situations:

  • servants and to animals that have been stolen and changed over time 
  • whether stolen wool has been dyed or has been left natural
  • when a stolen field is improved over time by the thief
  • how one collects money to provide for his wife's children from a previous relationship
  • a stolen animal that becomes pregnant or grows wool after the theft, etc.
One of the more interesting examples is that of two brothers who inherit their father's land and improve it together after his death.  Traditionally the first born son is offered a double-portion of inheritance.  In this case, the older brother must pay half of the worth of the enhancements to his younger brother.  This is done with money and not by redistributing the land itself, which is still inherited by the older brother.

Compensation via money rather than land is repeated in other similar situations/examples.