bm 25b.1: Coins, tied birds, items found in garbage heaps
[We begin on the last line of page 25a, continuing the discussion of coins found in particular non-random arrangements.]
Rav Ashi asked: What if the coins were arranged like the stones of the House of Kulis?
[Rashi identifies Kulis with Markulis, a pagan diety often identified with Mercury. Tosafot suggests, on the basis of our text, that the diety's name was Kulis, from the Hebrew root kls (praise), and that the Mar prefix (making the name Markulis) is a rab binic addition to connote negation -- so that the name of diety is denotes "Non-praise." This is this an example of a rabbinic "back-etymology," in which the rabbis (in this case, the tosafist R. Tam, Rashi's grandson) seeks a Hebrew root to a clearly non -Hebrew word. As an exercise in etymology, it is (to say the least) unconvincing, but the homiletic message is perhaps more acceptable.]
The gemara responds: Come learn from a b'raita: If one found scattered coins, they belong to him (the finder), but if they were arranged like the stones of the House of Kulis, he must announce them. And this is how the stones of the House of Kulis (were a rranged): one on this side, one on that side, and one on top of them [i.e. like a dolmen, either _-_ or |~|].
The rabbis taught (in a b'raita): If one found a sela (a coin) in the market, and his friend met him and said "the coin is mine," (and provided further identification:) "It is new" or "It is minted with Nero's name" he (the claimant" has said nothing (i.e ., he has not provided adequate identification). And not only that, but even if his (the claimant's name) is written on the coin, he has said nothing, because there are no identifying marks for a coin, for (the finder) can say "Maybe (the claimant) spent (the coin) and it fell from someone else."
Mishna: If one found behind a fence or a wall pigeons tied together or (if he found tied pigeons) in paths through fields, he should not touch them. If he found a utensil in the garbage, he should not touch it if it is covered, but if it is uncovered, he should take it and announce it.
The gemara: Why (should he not touch the birds)? We assume that someone hid (the birds behind the fence). And if he (the finder) takes them, the owner does not have an idenfifying mark (with which he can reclaim them). Therefore, the finder should leave t hem until the owner comes and takes them.
But why (doesn't the owner have an identifying mark)? Let the knot be an identifier!
R. Abba bar Zavda said in the name of Rav: (The mishna is dealing with a case in which the birds were) tied by their wings, because everyone ties birds in this manner (so that the knot cannot be an identifier).
The let the place (where they were found) be an identifying mark! [Remember, on 22b, there was a dispute between Rabba and Rava on whether place can be an identifier. The present question is based on Rava's ruling that place _can_ be an identifier.]
Rav Ukva bar Chama said: The birds can jump (even though the wings are tied, the birds can still move, so the place cannot be an identifier, even according to Rava).
But if the birds can jump, they could have come from anywhere, and they should be permitted (to the finder)? [The owner would not have placed mobile birds behind the fence, knowing that they could move. So we must assume that they were inadvertently lost. And since there is no identifying mark, the finder should be able to keep the birds.]
The gemara answers: It is possible that they came from somewhere else, and it is also possible that the owner hid them (behind the fence), so this is a case of "doubtful placement" (i.e., we don't know if they were placed there on purpose or not). And R. Abba bar Zavda said in the name of Rav: Any case of doubtful placement -- initially, (the finder) should not pick it up, but if he picked it up, he should not return it.
(We are now at the two dots a bit more than half-way down 25b.)
(Our mishna said:) If one found a utensil in a garbage heap: If it (the utensil) is buried, he should not touch it. If it is exposed, he should take it and announce it. [In our previous presentation of the mishna, we referred to the utensils as "covered" or "uncovered." In retrospect, we realize that buried" and "exposed" are more appropriate translations for these terms as they are used in this mishna.]
The gemara asks a question from a b'raita: If one found a utensil buried in a garbage heap, he must take it and announce it, because it is the nature of garbage heaps to be cleared. [This apparently contradicts our mishna, which distinguished between buri ed and exposed utensils. Rashi explains the b'raita's logic: since the garbage will be cleared, a dishonest person might find the object and keep it. Therefore, in order to protect the owner's rights, the finder takes it and announces it.]
Rav Zevid said: There is no contradiction. Here (in the mishna, we are dealing with) barrels and cups; there (in the b'raita, we are dealing with) knives and forks. With barrels and cups, he (the finder) should not touch them (because we must assume that they were not lost, but were placed there on purpose). But with knives and forks, he must take them and announce them (because we can assume that such smaller and less significant items were probably left inadvertently, and are thus lost).
Rav Papa said: Both (the mishna and the b'raita) are dealing with casks and cups, but there is no contradiction. Here (in the b'raita) we are dealing with a garbage heap that is regularly cleared (so that an item left there must be considered lost, even i f it is buried), but here (in the mishna) we are dealing with a garbage heap that is not regularly cleared (so that an item buried there should not be considered lost, but was presumptively hidden there on purpose).
(The gemara objects: But an item in) a garbage heap that is regularly cleared is a "known loss" (i.e., presumably thrown out or abandoned).
Instead, (the b'raita is discussing) a garbage heap that is _not_ regularly cleared (so we cannot assume that the item was abandoned), and the owner (of the garbage heap) decided to clear it (so the item must be taken and announced).
According to Rav Papa, this makes sense, which is why the b'raita stated "because it is the nature of garbage heaps to be cleared." But according to Rav Zevid (who said that the difference between the b'raita and the mishna is that the former was dealing with knives and forks, and the latter was dealing with barrels and cups), why "because it is the nature of garbage heaps to be cleared?" [That issue is irrelevant!]
(The gemara reconciles the b'raita and mishna even according to Rav Zevid:) It is the nature of garbage heaps that people clear small utensils into it inadvertently. [Thus, according to Rav Zevid, "the nature of the garbage heap" is not "to be cleared" bu t "to have small items cleared, i.e. discarded, into it".]
We are now at the mishna five lines from the bottom of 25b.
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