Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Bava Metzia 3

Midway through the first amud of Bava Metzia 3, the gemara discusses a case from a gemara in Shavuos 45a and in so doing sheds light on the concept of why a person can be forced to accept the shavua of another.

The discussion I am referring to takes place within the analysis of R' Yosi and the Rabanan's positions in relation to two people who are contesting a sum of money. In R' Yosi and the Rabanan's initial dispute (found on Bava Metzia 37a) two people claim that they deposited money with a third person. In reality, one of them deposited 100 zuz while the other deposited 200 zuz. However, each person claims that he was the one who deposited the 200. Meanwhile, the third person does not know who gave him the 200 zuz. The Rabanan state that each person takes 100 zuz and the remaining 100 zuz is left until Eliyahu comes and tells us who it belongs to. R' Yosi states that all 300 zuz is left for Eliyahu to explain. The gemara explains that R' Yosi is looking to punish the "trickster" since the one who is being untruthful is now being deprived of even the 100 zuz which is rightfully his. By deferring judgment on all 300 zuz, it is hoped that the trickster will admit that his claim is false.

The gemara later asks whether the dispute between R' Yosi and the Rabanan can be applied to the scenario in Shavuos 45a. In the Shavuos gemara, a shopkeeper is told by an employer that the shopkeeper should pay the employer's employee and that the employer will reimburse the shopkeeper. Later, the employee comes to the employer and says - where's my money. Meanwhile, the shopkeeper also demands reimbursement. The gemara in Shavuos states that in this situation, the employer must pay both people, even though one is lying.

The gemara in Bava Metzia 3a asks - why pay both - shouldn't the money be left for Eliyahu to determine? The gemara answers in the negative and in so doing sheds light on the concept of shavua. The gemara explains that the storekeeper can argue "I did what you asked me to do, what connection do I have to this employee, I don't have to believe his oath." Rashi explains that a person is not required to accept a shavua of another unless he originally trusted the person. For example, if the storekeeper lent money to the employee because he trusted him, the storekeeper would be required to accept the shavua since there was a relationship between them initially.

In our situation, the shopkeeper never had a relationship where he relied on the employee. As such, the shopkeeper is not required to rely on the employee's honesty and cannot be bound by the oath of the employee. Additionally, Rashi explains that the shopkeeper can turn to the employer and say - you trusted him since you instructed me to pay him without requiring witnesses to the transaction. Therefore, I should not have to wait for Eliyahu to find out whether I should be paid.

Meanwhile, the employee has the identical argument. The employee can say to the employer - I had no connection to the storekeeper. I worked for you because you were going to pay me. Although you later told me go to the storekeeper for payment, he is not trustworthy to me and since I never relied on him, I should not have to accept his oath or wait until Eliyahu comes for payment.

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