[bm 28a.1: We begin on the fourth line. Rava has attempted to prove that the requirement to return a lost item on the basis of identifying marks is rabbinic, but has been unable to do so. So Rava will now try to find a biblical source.]
Instead, Rava said: (Returning an item on the basis of) identifying marks is biblical, for it is written (Deut 22:2) "And it (the lost item) shall be with you until your brother asks (d'rosh) for it." Would it occur to you to return it _before_ he asked for it? Instead, investigate (dor'she'hu, the same root as "d'rosh" in the biblical verse) to see if he is a deceiver or not a deceiver. Would not this (investigation) be on the basis of identifying marks? We learn from this (that identifying marks are bi blical). [This same argument had been presented on 27b, and rejected as unconvincing. The rabbis _knew_ that items were returned on the basis of identifying marks, but were unsure whether it was biblical or rabbinic. Now that they could find no rabbinic s ource, they were willing to accept this as evidence of a biblical source.]
Rava said: If you assume that identifying marks are biblical ... [The gemara interjects:] If you assume??!! (Rava just) proved that identifying marks _were_ biblical!
(The gemara answers:) Because you can (reject Rava's proof) as we learned above (that the biblical reference may be to returning an item on the basis of witnesses).
[The issue remains unresolved: Rav Ashi (co-redactor with Ravina of the Babylonian Talmud) is uncertain whether identifying marks are biblical or rabbinic" (B.M. 18b).]
(Rava now continues, as he was saying before the interruption:) Identifying marks versus identifying marks [i.e., two claimants both provide identification] -- (the item remains) held (by the finder, presumably until the matter is resolved).
Identifying marks versus witnesses (i..e., one claimant can identify the item, but the other claimant has witnesses), (the item should be given) to the one with witnesses.
Identifying marks versus identifying marks plus one witness, it is as if the witness did not exist, and (the finder) keeps it (until the matter is resolved). [A basic halakhic principle is that two witnesses are normally required in civil matters; a sing le witness does not strengthen one's case.]
Witnesses to the weaving of a garment versus witnesses to dropping the garment, it should be given to the one with witnesses to the dropping, for we say that the weaver sold it, and someone else (the owner) dropped it.
(Identification of a piece of cloth) by a measure of length versus by a measure of width, it should be given to the one who provides a measure of length, for one can estimate breadth by how much it covers when the owner is wearing it, but one cannot esti mate length (i.e., breadth is easier to estimate, and is thus does not indicate as much familiarity as does an accurate estimate of length).
Measure of length and measure of breadth versus measure of perimeter, it is given to the one who provides a measure of length and a measure of width. [Again, knowing the length and width requires greater familiarity than knowing only their sum, i.e. half the perimeter, and is thus more convincing proof of ownership. The term for half the perimeter is "gam" literally, referring to the Greek gamma, an inverted L, and "gamav" means "(the sum of) its (two) gammas.]
Measure of length and measure of width versus measure of weight, it should be given to the one who provides a measure of weight. [Again, the principle is that ownership goes to the one who shows greater familiarity. Nobody other than the owner is likely to know the weight of a garment.]
[Rava now goes on to rule on the status of a lost get (bill of divorce). The husband writes the get (or has it written), but the divorce does not take place until the get is delivered to the wife. In the present case, the get was lost, and both the man a nd woman can provide identifying marks. He claims that he never gave her the get, and they are thus still married; she claims that he _did_ give her the get, and that they are now divorced.]
He (the husband) provides identifying marks and she provides identifying marks -- it is given to her (since the only way for her to know the marks is if it was given to her).
How (did she identify it)? If it was by the measure of its length and width, perhaps she saw it while he was holding it (but it was never delivered to her)?
Instead, (she said) "There is a notch in the side of a certain letter" (clearly showing that she was familiar with it, and did not just see him holding it).
He identifies marks on the string binding (the get) and she identifies marks on the string -- it should be given to her. How (did she identify the string)? If by saying it was white or red, perhaps she saw him holding it (but it was never delivered to he r)? Instead, she identified it by stating its (the string's) length.
He said it was in a bag and she said it was in a bag, it should be given to him. Why? She knows that he keeps everything [or at least all his documents] is a bag [so that her identification is not convincing evidence].
[We are now at the mishna in the middle of 28a.]
Mishna: Until when must one announce (a lost article)? Until his neighbors know about it; these are the words of R. Meir. R. Yehuda says (he must announce it for) the Three Festivals (Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot), and another seven days after the final Fe stival, so that he (the owner) will have three days to return home (and find that the item is lost), and have three days to return (to Jerusalem), and one day to announce. [Males were required to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the Three Festivals, so t he finder could be certain that the owner would have had a chance to hear the the lost item had been found.]
[Historical note: The disputants, R. Meir and R. Yehuda b. Ilay, both disciples of R. Akiva, lived in northen Palestine long after the destruction of the Temple, when pilgrimages to Jerusalem had become a nostalgic memory. R. Yehuda is formulating a rule that can only be applied in the "days to come", whereas R. Meir's proposal was intended for practical application.]
Gemara: We learned in a b'raita (that an item must be announced until) the neighbors of the item (know about it). Who are the "neighbors of the item?" If it means the neighbors of the person who lost the item -- if he (the finder) knows who lost the item, let him return it!
Instead, it means the neighbors of the place in which the item was lost. [R. Meir thus seems to require an announcement only in the area in which the item was lost, but not anywhere else.]
R. Yehuda said ... (that the finder must announce the loss for Three Festivals ..). They (the rabbis) asked (from a mishna in Ta'anit 10a): On the third of MarCheshvan was begin to ask for rain (in the liturgy, adding v'ten tal u'matar). Rabban Gamliel sa ys on the seventh (of MarCheshvan), which is the fifteenth day after the Festival (Sukkot), so that the last returning pilgrim in Israel (returning from Jerusalem) could reach the Euphrates River. [It took 15 days to get from Jerusalem to the Euphrates, a nd Rabban Gamliel wanted to be sure that they reached home before the rains began. But why does R. Yehuda, in our mishna, allow only three days for the trip?]
Rav Yosef said: There is no contradiction. There (the mishna in Ta'anit) refers to the time of the First Temple, and here (R. Yehuda in our mishna) refers to the time of the Second Temple. In the time of the First Temple there were many Jews, as it is wri tten (I Kings 4:20) "Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea," and they required fifteen days (to make the journey). In the time of the Second Temple, there were not so many Jews, as it is written (Ezra 2:70) "The entire community together we re 42,360," they did not need so much time for the journey. [Rav Yosef is not suggesting that it was the number of people that determined the length of the journey, but that borders were were closer to Jerusalem in the Second Temple era.]
Abbaye said (to Rav Yosef): But it is written (Ezra 2:70, regarding the return from exile to rebuild the Second Temple) "And the Kohanim and the Levi'im ... and the singers and the gate-keepers ... and all Israel were in their cities" [suggesting that the cities occupied in the Second Temple era were the same as in the First Temple, but with smaller populations -- so that the distances to the borders should have been the same]!
Therefore, the opposite is more logical -- in the First Temple era, when there were many Jews, they would join together to form caravans that would travel day and night, they did not require so much time, and three days was enough (to reach the borders). In the time of the Second Temple, when there were fewer Jews, and they could not join to form caravans that could travel day and night, it took longer [fifteen days to reach the borders].
[The gemara presents an alternative solution:] Rava said there was no difference between the First and Second Temple periods [and the travel time was only three days], but the Rabbis did not want to burden (the finder) of a lost object (and thus only requ ired the finder to wait seven days after the Festival).
Ravina said: We learn from this (that R. Yehuda only required seven days) that when one announces (that he found a garment), he announces a garment (i.e., the announcement identifies the lost item). For if you might think that he announces only a lost ite m (without identifying the kind of item), we would have to give (the owner) more than one day to check all of his possessions. We can truly learn from here that (R. Yehuda) holds that he announces a lost garment (i.e., that the announcement must specify t he item).
Rava said: You may even say that he announces only "a lost item" (without specifying what kind of item), but the rabbis did not want to place an extra burden (on the finder) of a lost item.
We learned (a supporting) b'raita: On the first Festival he says "First Festival (announcement)." On the second Festival he says "Second Festival (announcement)". On the third Festival he announces non-specifically (i.e., simply announces that he found so mething). [Rashi explains that the owner, hearing that it is the first or second announcement, will not have to rush back to Jerusalem, knowing that he will be able to reclaim his item on the next Festival.]
Why not announce "Third Festival"? So that it should not be confused with the second. If so, (the same confusion could result from announcing) "Second" too, which could be confused with the first? Because the third Festival is still to come. [Confusing th e first and the second is not a fatal error, because the owner will be back for the next Festival anyway. But if it is the third Festival and the owner hears "Second," he will lose his chance of recovery.]
A b'raita: At first, anyone who lost an item would announce it for three Festivals and for seven days after the last Festival, so that (the owner) would have three days to go home, three days to come back, and one day to announce. When the Temple, may it be rebuilt speedily in our days, was destroyed, the rabbis ordained that they would announce in the synagogues and study halls. When the enforcers became prevalent, they (the rabbis) ruled that it was sufficient to announce to one's neighbors and friends. What is the meaning of "when the enforcers became prevalent?" (The enforcers are) people who say "lost items belong to the king".
R. Ami found a basket of gold coins. A certain person [specified in another version of the text to be Roman] saw that he was afraid. He said to him (to R. Ami) "Go take it for yourself, for we are not like the Persians who say that lost items belong to th e king".
[The gemara has thus finally come around to R. Meir's view. However, the priority rule settles disputes between R. Yehudah and R. Meir in favor of the former, so his view is accepted as as halakhah, whereas that of R. Meir, which is eventually adopted for practical reasons, is characterized as a takanah (ordinance).]
We learned in a b'raita: There was a Claimant's Stone in Jerusalem, and anyone who lost something would go there, and anyone who found something would go there. One would stand and announce (the find), and one would give identifying marks and reclaim it. And it was about this stone that Honi the Circle-make said "Go see if the Claimant's Stone has been dissolved."
[The gemara in Ta'anit 19a tells the story of Honi the Circle-maker. There was a drought, and Honi drew a circle around himself and swore not to leave the circle until G-d sent rain. There was so much rain that the people asked Honi to pray that the rains stop. Honi felt that rain was a blessing, and that one should not pray for the end of a blessing; he told them to see if the Claimant's Stone had dissolved. Just as the rain could not dissolve a stone, so Honi could not pray for the end of a blessing.]
[We end at the first mishna in 28b.]
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