Saturday, 15 April 2017

Bava Batra 83: The Land Between Trees; Reversal of Sale

Continuing their discussion about ownership of the land beneath trees, the rabbis clarify further.  They consider how close three trees must be to each other to be considered an orchard.  Buying these three trees, an orchard, would entitle the buyer to the land between the trees.  But how much is too much land?  How close is too close?  The rabbis walk through different ways of understanding this question, including whether the trees are more than 16 amos apart and thus separate from each other, or whether the trees might be closer than four amos apart, and an ox would not be able to travel between the trees.

The rabbis also consider vineyards - how close together and how far apart must the vines be placed?  And how is that measure taken - from the middle of a vine or from the end of a vine?  A vine that is stretched out or a vine that is stretching just to touch the ground?  They even walk us through what to do with dead trees and vines that have been grafted together.  Finally, the rabbis debate what should be done when a tree sprouts and grows between other trees.  Is a purchase of two trees now the purchase of an orchard?  Must the trees be in a line or in the shape of a triangle?  What if we are discussing a shrub and not a tree?

A new Mishna teaches that when one sells the head of an animal, the legs are not included.  Similarly, if one sells the legs, the head is not included.  If one sells the lung, the liver is not included and vice versa.  With a small animal, the guidelines are different.  selling the head of the animal does include the legs, but selling the legs does not include the head.  Selling the lung includes the liver, but selling the liver does not include the lung.

The rabbis begin a discussion about the reversal of a sale.  They teach us that there are certain conditions where a sale should be reversed, and others where a sale should not be reversed.  
Sales can be reversed when:

  • bad wheat was sold as good wheat (the buyer can retract)
  • good wheat was sold as bad wheat (the seller can retract)
  • red wheat was sold as white wheat
  • white wheat was sold as red wheat
  • olive wood was sold as sycamore
  • sycamore was sold as olive wood
  • vinegar was sold as wine
  • wine was sold as vinegar

If an item was sold as was agreed upon, however, there can be no retraction of the sale.  

We can identify the rabbis' attempts to be fair in their principals when it comes to business ethics.  There is still the understanding that people may attempt to mislead each other in business.  These guidelines continue to be relevant in and outside of the marketplace.

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