[We begin 11 lines from the top of bm30b. The gemara had ruled that an elderly person need not return an item if it was beneath his dignity to do so. Now the gemara will try for a more precise definition.]
Rava said: Any item which he would return [i.e., retrieve] if it were his own, he must also return if it belongs to his fellow Jew. Any item which he would load or unload if it were his own, he must also load or unload if it is his fellow Jew's. [The refe rence to loading and unloading is to the biblical requirement (Exodus 23:5 and Deut 22:4) that one render assistance loading goods that have fallen off an animal's back, or unloading an animal that is too heavily burdened.]
R. Yishmael b. R. Yose was traveling on the road and met a man who had been carrying a bundle of wood that he had unloaded and was resting. He (the man) said "Load these on me." He (R. Yishmael) said "How much is it worth?" He (the man) said "Half a zuz." He (R. Yishmael) gave him half a zuz and pronounced the wood ownerless. (The man, seeing that it was now ownerless), again took possession of it. Again he gave him half a zuz and pronounced it (the wood) ownerless. He saw that the man was again going to take possession of it, and he said "I pronounce this ownerless to the entire world, but not for you."
But can something become ownerless like this? We learned in a mishna (Pe'ah 6:1): Beit Shammai said (an item declared) ownerless only for the poor is ownerless. Beit Hillel said that it is not ownerless until it is ownerless for the poor and the rich, as in the Sabbatical year (when anyone, rich or poor, can take produce). [In almost all cases of a dispute between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, we rule according to Beit Hillel. Here too, declaring something ownerless can only be effective if it is ownerles s for _everyone_, not just poor people. So what was R. Yishmael doing?]
Instead, R. Yishmael b. R. Yose pronounced the wood ownerless for the entire world, and he restrained that man with mere words (i.e., he misled the man).
But R. Yishmael b. R. Yose was an elderly man, and it would be beneath his dignity [to help pile wood on the man's back -- thus, he didn't have to help the man at all!]
R. Yishmael b. R. Yose went beyond the letter of the law. As R. Yosef taught (on Exodus 18:20: "And you should tell them of the statutes and the laws and you should let them know the way to walk in it and the acts that they may do.")
"And you should let them know" -- this refers to making a living [i.e., providing a livelihood so that they will be able to observe the Torah's statutes and laws referred to in the first clause of the verse]. "The way" -- acts of kindness. "To walk" -- vi siting the sick. "In it" -- burying the dead. "The acts" -- the letter of the law. "That they may do" -- going beyond the letter of the law.
A master said: "To walk" is visiting the sick. But that is a kind deed [why does visiting the sick require special mention]?
It is required only for the case (of a visitor) born under the same astrological sign. As a master said, a person born under the same astrological sign takes one sixtieth of the illness (and suffers from it), but he still must visit (the sick person).
"In it" -- burying the dead. But that is included in "kind deeds" [so why does it merit special mention]? It is required to tell us that even if it is beneath one's dignity [one is required to bury the dead].
"That they may do" -- even beyond the letter of the law. R. Yohanan said "Jerusalem was destroyed because its residents decided cases according to Torah law"
[The gemara asks in amazement:] Should they have judged by tyrannical law? [In other words, what was so terrible about judging according to the laws of the Torah?]
Instead say that they set up their laws according to the laws of the Torah, but they did not act beyond the letter of the law.
Mishna: What is a lost item? If one found a donkey or a cow grazing by the road, this is not a lost item [since the owner presumably left it there to graze]. If one found a donkey with its trappings overturned, or a cow running through the vineyards [Rash i: where it is likely to be injured], this is a lost item [presumably the owner does not know where it is]. If one returned an animal, and it ran away, and he returned it and it ran away again, even four or five times, he must return it (again and again), for it says (Deut 22:1) "You shall surely return them" (the double terminology of "Hashev t'shivem" is interpreted to mean that one must return an item again and again].
If a person [in the process of retrieving a lost item] interrupted a selah's [a selah is a silver coin] worth of work, he should not say (to the owner) "Give me a selah," but he (the owner) should give him the wages of a common worker. [The gemara will ex plain that the ongoing work was difficult, and thus was worth a full selah; the task of retrieval was easier work, and thus merits lower pay.] If there is a court (nearby) [Rashi: any three men can serve as a laymen's court], he (the finder) may stipulate before the court [that he will retrieve the item only if he receives the full selah payment, and the court will enforce the claim]. If there is no court before whom may be stipulate? He comes first [i.e., he can give priority to his own financial needs, and he does not have to interrupt his high-pay work in order to retrieve a lost item for lower pay].
Gemara: Are these (the donkey and the cow mentioned in the mishna) the only lost items? [Previously, the gemara has discussed lost garments, lost utensils, lost money, etc. Why does the mishna mention only the donkey and cow?]
Rav Yehuda said: This is (what the mishna) says: What is the general guideline for a lost item that he must return? If one found a donkey or a cow grazing by the road, this is not a lost item and he is not responsible (to return it). If one found a donkey with its trappings overturned, or a cow running through the vineyards, this is a lost item, and he is responsible (to return it).
Forever? [Suppose one sees the donkey or cow grazing by the side of the road day after day; can one continue to assume that the owners know where they are?]
Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: For three days.
How so? If it's at night [when animals are not normally left out to graze], even one hour too [should lead one to believe that the animal is lost]. And if it is daytime, even more [than three days should not lead one to believe that the animal was lost].
[The gemara answers: The three-day rule] is not necessary unless he saw it (the animal) early in the morning or in the evening after dark. For three days we say "The animal just happened to go out (at these strange times)." More (than three days), it is c ertainly a lost item.
[We are now at the last line of 30b.]
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