Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Bava Metzia 73

Bava Metzia 73 continues the discussion of various business arrangements and whether they violate the rules of rabbinical ribbis. Two of the scenarios were interesting to me and I will address them in this post.

On Bava Metzia 73a, the gemara discusses the business deals of donkey drivers who would take money from people in cities where the price of wheat was expensive and then buy wheat in other cities where the wheat was cheaper. These donkey drivers would charge their buyers the lower city price, thus delivering wheat at a significant discount.

The gemara relates that these donkey drivers did not violate the rules of rabbinical ribbis, either because (according to R' Papa) they got a business advantage because the wheat sellers in the lower price city would open their stores to them because they had cash on hand. The alternate reason (suggested by R' Acha) is that the wheat sellers in the cheaper city would cut them a discount as they were aware that the donkey drivers were selling the wheat for cost and the sellers wanted to make sure that the donkey drivers kept coming back. I was quite impressed with how advanced the factoring system was in those times and that the amoraim knew how to regulate commerce.

The other interesting point relates to the government tax system as discussed on Bava Metzia 73b. The gemara mentions a question of Ravina to R' Ashi as to wine which was produced and sold to him. Ravina asks whether he can accept the wine as he is concerned that the farmers did not actually own the land and were merely working it by dint of the government. Rashi explains that there were wealthy people who saw that the landowners were fleeing their property rather than paying the land tax. These people would subsequently pay the tax to the king and then work the land. Ravina was concerned as the land did not actually get transferred to them by virtue of paying the tax. The gemara relates that R' Ashi told Ravina that it was not a problem since the king ties the land to the tax and the king had declared that whomever pays the tax is entitled to the produce of the land.

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