Proof 9: The Overflowing River

[We are on Bava Metzia 22a, 6 lines from the top.]

Come learn [a B'raita that can prove Abbaye's position that despair without awareness is _not_ despair]: If a river washed away beams, lumber, or stones and deposited them in someone else's field, they belong to him (i.e., the owner of the field on which the material was deposited) because the original owner despaired of ever recovering them.

The gemara now analyzes the B'raita: Why (can the finder keep it)? The reason given is because the owners have despaired (implying that the flood was sufficiently severe that they would certainly have known about it).

But normally (if we were not dealing with such a serious flood that the owner is certain to be aware of the loss, the B'raita does not say that the lost items would belong to the finder. [Rashi: "Similarly, if the case of any other kind of loss of which the owner is unaware, it would not belong to the finder: a rebuttal of Rava". This then supports Abbaye's statement that there is no despair without awareness.]

The gemara rejects the analysis: The case we are dealing with here involves items that can be saved. [Since the items can be saved, the owner does not despair. But this case cannot be used to prove a general statement about lost items. Everyone -- even Rava -- might agree that, so long as the items can be saved, the owners do not despair.]

Proof 10: Owner in Pursuit

[This part of the argument does not begin with a "ta sh'ma" (come learn) phrase that has introduced all the tanna'itic statements brought until now. Unless you were really counting the proofs and matching them up to the mnemonic presented at the start of the gemara's attempt at proving Abbaye vs. Rava, you would have assumed that this is just a continuation of Proof 9.]

If so (i.e., if the special feature of beams, lumber, and stones washed away by a minor flood is that the lost material can be saved), consider the last part of the B'raita: "If the owners were pursuing them (the lost items), the finder must return them." [If the first part of the B'raita was dealing (by implication) with material that the owner could save, why speak of a case in which the owner was chasing after the lost items? Even if the owner were _not_ chasing after the lost items (the same rule should hold, because he may have intended to reclaim them when the flood has subsided).]

The gemara rejects this argument by modifying its analysis: What case are we dealing with? One in which he (the owner) was able to save the items, but only with great difficulty. [In such a case, if he is pursuing (the lost items), he clearly has not despaired (and the finder cannot keep the items). But if he is not pursuing the items, he clearly has despaired. The second part of the B'raita was necessary in order to make this distinction].

[So, we are back to square one. The case of beams, lumber, and stones washed away by a stream cannot provide unequivocal support for either Rava or Abbaye. We are now 15 lines from the top of 22a.]

Proof 10-13. Trumah without Awareness.

[Supporting evidence for Rava's point of view is submitted, evidently not by Rava himself, from the requirement to set aside approximately a 50th of one's produce, called Trumah (literally "donation") for consumption by Kohanim exclusively. The produce selected attains its status as trumah as soon as it is set aside].

[The gemara here presents three of the fifteen proofs brought to bear on the dispute between Abbaye and Rava. The central one is the issue of Trumah without awareness. Subtly embedded are subsidiary proofs based on upgrading the trumah to a better grade of produce, and the case in which the owner himself added to the trumah.]

Linguistic note: We started by translating "Ta shma`", the expression that prefaces citation of a Mishna or B'raita, literally as "Come hear:". Then, in deference to Artscroll's interpretetive translation, we switched to "Come learn:". From now on, we will translate it simply as "Listen:"].

Listen: (citing Tosefta Trumot 1,5): For what circumstances was it said that if one person goes down into someone else's field without the owner's knowledge (but with his permission), gathers (some produce) and sets it aside as trumah, it is (valid) trumah (that obligates the owner to donate it to a Kohen)? If he [the owner] objects on grounds of robbery, what he has set aside is not trumah; if not, what he has set aside is trumah.

How can he know whether or not he (the owner) objects on grounds of robbery (since, having given the other person his permission to set aside trumah for him, he would hardly tell him so explicitly)? Say that the owner came and found him (in the field) and told him, "go to a better grade (of produce, and set it aside for trumah)". If a better grade can be found, what he set aside is trumah (because the owner approved the action, and merely wanted to improve the quality of the produce donated), but if not (and the owner was being sarcastic, implying that he objected to the donation of his best produce without his knowledge) it is not trumah. (However), if the _owner_ gathered more (produce) and added it to that which had been set aside (thus indicating his approval by his action), it is trumah in either case (i.e., whether or not better produce was found).

(The proponent of this proof asks:) If he says "go to a better grade", what he has set aside is trumah. Why (is it trumah)? At the time the produce was set aside, he (the owner) did not know (that it was being set aside). [It follows that trumah without awareness is trumah, lending support to Rava's contention, by analogy, that despair without awareness is despair.]

[Rava himself rejects this proof.] Rava interprets the B'raita according to Abbaye's viewpoint: He (the owner) appointed this person to be his agent (authorizing him in advance to set aside produce for trumah on his behalf). [Therefore, he cannot claim that he was unaware of his agent's actions, except in case the agent exceeded his instructions.]

[The gemara amplifies Rava's interpretation of the B'raita]: This makes sense, for if it enters your mind that he did not appoint him to be an agent, would what he set aside be trumah? Doesn't the Torah state: "ye also", in order to include your agent? Just as you (set aside trumah) with your knowledge, your agent (sets aside trumah for you) with your knowledge.

[The verse being read exegetically is Numbers 18:28: "ken tarimu _gam atem_ trumat Hashem" (Thus _ye also_ shall set apart a gift unto the Lord). The word "gam" (also) is redundant, and it is understood that it would not have been included if it did not add a new feature - in the present case, donation by an agent.]

[The B'raita is now reinterpreted accordingly.] We are dealing with a situation in which the owner appointed this person to be his agent and told him "set aside (produce for trumah)" but did not tell him "set aside (produce) of this grade for trumah." The owner assumed that he would set aside produce of medium grade, but he set aside produce of the best quality. The owner came and found him (in the field) and told him, "go to a better grade (of produce, and set it aside for trumah)." If a better grade can be found, what he set aside is trumah, but if not it is not trumah.

Interlude: Rabbis in the Orchard

[As is quite common in the Talmud, a point raised in a halakhic discussion brings up an anecdote by association. This may or may not cast light on the issue being discussed. In either case it often serves as a welcome break in the series of tightly reasoned arguments.]

Ameimar, Mar Zutra and Rav Ashi happened to come into Mari bar Isak's orchard. His sharecropper brought dates and pomegranates, and placed the fruit before them. Ameimar and Rav Ashi ate but Mar Zutra did not (because he did not know whether the sharecropper was offering his own fruit or the landowner's, and - if the latter - whether he did so with permission). Just then Mari bar Isak appeared and told his sharecropper, "Why didn't you offer the Rabbis some of that good fruit?". Ameimar and Rav Ashi asked Mar Zutra, "Now why aren't you eating?. Isn't it stated in a B'raita (the one cited above), 'If a better grade can be found, what he set aside is trumah'" (indicating that the sharecropper had the owner's prior permission to offer us the fruit)? Mar Zutra told them: "Rava said (that saying) "Go to the better grade" (- if better-grade produce can be found, it is an indication of the owner's satisfaction) only in the case of Trumah, which is a mitzvah. In that case he would be satisfied (to fulfil the mitzvah generously), but here he spoke this way because of embarrassment (of appearing miserly to the Rabbis, so we can't be sure that he was expressing his satisfaction)".

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