Elu Metziot shiur #22, 27a

  • Rav Joshua Amaru


Introduction to the Study of Talmud
By Rav Josh Amaru

Elu Metziot shiur #22,  27a.

Today's shiur includes the vocabulary list for the shiur itself. If you wish to consult the full cumulative vocabulary list, it is found at

The grammar lessons appear at the end of the vocabulary lists. 

As usual, the citations to the text of the gemara are linked to the online scan of the daf, for those who do not have an open gemara before them.  The gemara can be found on-line at 

Key words and phrases are marked in blue, and their translation/explanation can be seen by placing the cursor over them.  Other vocabulary words are marked in red and can be found on the vocabulary list at the end of the shiur.  Particularly important vocabulary words will be underlined and either have a link to the vocabulary list or a pop-up window that will appear if you place the cursor on them. 

Summary of last shiur:    Last week we discussed the cases of money found in a store or at a moneychanger's in which the position of the lost money relative to the clerk determines whether it is presumed his.  We also examined the case of money found amongst merchandise, in which the buyer does not assume that it belongs to the seller unless no one else was involved in the processing of the merchandise. 

    This week, we begin with the mishna on daf 27a.  We encounter a phenomenon that is relatively rare in the mishna.  Rather than teaching us new laws or ruling in additional cases, this mishna is focused on the source for some of the laws of hashavat aveida.The relevant verse in the Torah is quoted and the mishna recounts how the law is extracted from the verse.

This sort of interpretation is called midrash halakha.  It includes both the revelation of the source of previously known laws and the discovery of new laws through interpretation of the Biblical text.   Much of the Tannaitic literature is midrash halakha.  Besides the  occasional mishna and very many baraitot recorded in the gemara, midrash halakha is collected in three books, the Mekhilta מכילתא on Shemot, the Sifra ספרא, on Va-Yikra, and the Sifrei ספרי on Be-Midbar and Devarim.  

   Our mishna derives from Devarim 22:3  the principle that the mitzva of hashavat aveida does not apply when the original owner was mityaesh.  Before we look at the mishna, recall the verses:

Devarim 22

1) You shall not see your brother's ox or his sheep driven away, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely bring them back unto your brother. 
2)  And if your brother be not near you, and you know him not, then you shall bring it to your house, and it shall be with you until your brother seeks it, and you shall return it to him. 
3) And so shall you do with his ass; and so shall you do with his garment; and so shall you do with every lost thing of your brother's, which he has lost, and you have found; you may not ignore (it)).

דברים פרק כב

(א) לÉא תÄרÀאÆה אÆת שÑוÉר אÈחÄיךÈ אוÉ אÆת שÒÅיוÉ נÄדÌÈחÄים וÀהÄתÀעÇלÌÇמÀתÌÈ מÅהÆם הÈשÑÅב תÌÀשÑÄיבÅם לÀאÈחÄיךÈ:

(ב) וÀאÄם לÉא קÈרוÉב אÈחÄיךÈ אÅלÆיךÈ וÀלÉא יÀדÇעÀתÌוÉ וÇאÂסÇפÀתÌוÉ אÆל תÌוÉךÀ בÌÅיתÆךÈ וÀהÈיÈה עÄמÌÀךÈ עÇד דÌÀרÉשÑ אÈחÄיךÈ אÉתוÉ וÇהÂשÑÅבÉתוÉ לוÉ:

(ג) וÀכÅן תÌÇעÂשÒÆה לÇחÂמÉרוÉ וÀכÅן תÌÇעÂשÒÆה לÀשÒÄמÀלÈתוÉ וÀכÅן תÌÇעÂשÒÆה לÀכÈל אÂבÅדÇת אÈחÄיךÈ אÂשÑÆר תÌÉאבÇד מÄמÌÆנÌוÌ וÌמÀצÈאתÈהÌ לÉא תוÌכÇל לÀהÄתÀעÇלÌÅם:

Now learn the mishna on 27aLine one in the schematic analysis.

    The mishna is set up in response to an implicit question.  The question is, why was it necessary for the Torah to add, in verse 3, the specific examples of lost objects - the ass and the garment - since in any case it adds a general rule that one must return "every lost thing of thy brother's?"  What is gained by the specification?  In raising this issue we encounter one of the fundamental  interpretive principles of midrash halakha:  the Torah is not frivolous with its words.  If something is added to a verse, there must be some additional content provided by the addition.  Our mishna does not address the added word 'ass' in the verse, but focuses on the addition of 'garment'.  It is from this addition that we extract something of the nature of a lost object that must be returned:  When the lost object has simanim and there exists someone who claims it for his or her own, the finder must announce it.  In the absence of these conditions, the mishna implies, there is no obligation to return the lost object. 

    The gemara expands upon the interpretation of the mishna and explains why the Torah includes all of the different examplies that it does:  the ox, the sheep, the ass, and the garment.  Learn the gemara on 27a until  "le-divrei ha-kol kashya לדברי הכל קשיא"  Lines 2-8 in the schematic analysis.

    First, the gemara addresses the unusual phrase in the mishna "included in all of these".  Rava explains that the mishna is pointing out that "his garment" is already included in "every lost thing of your brother's" and so is redundant.  In this way, the gemara identifies the implicit question to which the midrash halakha is responding:  why does the verse list specific objects if afterwards the Torah includes "every lost thing of your brother's?"  The mishna explains the point of specifying "his garment."

    Rava continues the project begun by the mishna.  He sets out to explain the inclusion of all of the specific examples, an ox,  a sheep, a donkey, and a garment in these verses, given that the "every lost thing of your brother's" would seem to include them all.  "Donkey" (or "ass'), appears in the same verse as "garment."  Rava explains that the original derivation in the mishna, from "garment," is expanded when the word 'donkey' is taken into consideration.  From 'garment' we learned that the lost object must be identifiable, either by witnesses or by simanim.  Since garments generally are only identified by their intrinsic features - color, size, type, markings, etc. - we might have thought that only such features can be used to identify the lost object.  Donkeys, however, are often identifiable as belonging to a particular person through some extrinsic feature - a distinctive saddle, for example.  One might have thought that such an identifier was insufficient.  For this reason, claims Rava, the Torah specified "donkey" along with "garment."  The identifying features of the lost object need not be an intrinsic part of the lost object;  even when they are merely attached to it, like a saddle on a donkey, they suffice to identify the lost object. 

    Next Rava addresses the reason two animals are specified in the first verse - an ox and a sheep.  Once again, the paradigm of a lost garment is too restrictive.  A garment is an item that neither changes over time nor can any of it be removed without damaging it.  Sheep and oxen, however, can be sheared (in the case of the ox, the shearing is limited to its tail).  They do not lose their identity in being sheared nor are they damaged. Based on the precedent of "garment" one might have thought that one needs to return to the owner merely that which he lost.  As long as the owner gets back the equivalent of the original object, the finder may, in the meantime, take advantage of the situation and keep the shearings.  Rava explains that the Torah specifies "ox" and "sheep", to preclude this possibility.  So long as he is not mityaesh, the lost object remains the loser's property and the finder may not take even the shearings.  

    The difficulty with this explanation, as the gemara points out, is that it does not explain the necessity of both 'ox' and 'sheep'.  'Ox' would have sufficed, since the shearings of its tail are of minimal value.  By pointing out that the finder may not take even the tail, it is obvious that he may not take the much more valuable sheep wool!

    Rava's response to this difficulty is opaque: 

    Donkey,' according to R. Yehuda's position on a pit, and 'sheep' according to everyone, are difficult [to explain]. 

Why is Rava bringing up the word 'donkey'?  Has not he already explained why the Torah included it?  Let's ignore that problem for a moment. 

Strikingly, Rava does not view this fact as undermining his whole project.  He accepts that he cannot explain everything, and is intellectually honest enought to admit it when he cannot.  However, the fact that he cannot explain everything does not mean that he can explain nothing - it is possible to live with unanswered questions without descending to a pervasive skepticism.  This response of Rava's is, in my opinion, of great significance in the modern world.  Modern thought tends not to consider the possiblity offered by Rava, and views knowledge and uncertainty as systematically mutually exclusive.  The alternative to fundamentalism thus becomes radical skepticism.  The Rabbis, exemplified here by Rava, offer a third way, in which knowledge and uncertainty co-exist. 
The second half of Rava's statement, "and 'sheep' according to everyone are difficult [to explain]", is basically a capitulation.  Rava admits that he has no good answer to the previous question; i.e., that "ox" would suffice and there is no need for "sheep." *


    Let us return now to the first part of Rava's response.  What does he mean by ''donkey,' according to R. Yehuda's position on a pit'?  Rashi. s.v. Chamor de-bor le-rabi Yehuda חמור דבור לרבי יהודה explains to us what is R. Yehuda's position on a donkey in a pit.  Rava is referring us here to an entirely different discussion that is unrelated to our discussion of lost objects.  The laws of damages in the Talmud are analyzed in accordance to to categories based on the verses in Shemot 21-22 that deal with damages.  One of these categories is that of a pit, and it is based on the following: 

Shemot chap. 21:

33)  If a person should open a pit or a person should dig a pit and not cover it, and an ox or sheep should fall into it.

34)  The owner of the pit will pay silver; he will recompense the owner and the corpse will be his.

שמות פרק כא

(לג) וÀכÄי יÄפÀתÌÇח אÄישÑ בÌוÉר אוÉ כÌÄי יÄכÀרÆה אÄישÑ בÌÉר וÀלÉא יÀכÇסÌÆנÌוÌ וÀנÈפÇל שÑÈמÌÈה שÌÑוÉר אוÉ חÂמוÉר: 
(לד) בÌÇעÇל הÇבÌוÉר יÀשÑÇלÌÅם כÌÆסÆף יÈשÑÄיב לÄבÀעÈלÈיו וÀהÇמÌÅת יÄהÀיÆה לÌוÉ:


Here too we seem to have unnecessary specification of the particular animals that are damaged in the pit.  In Bava Kama 54a, the gemara reports that the Rabbis derived from "ox" and "donkey" in these verses two rules:  "Ox" teaches us that the owner of the pit is not responsible for the damages incurred when a person (rather than an ox) falls in the pit (the person should watch where he is going).  "Donkey" teaches us that the owner of the pit is also not responsible for kelim (vessels) that are damaged by falling in the pit.  On this second point, R. Yehuda disagrees.  He holds that the owner of the pit is responsible for damage done to kelim.

    With all this in mind we can understand Rava's somewhat oblique reference.  He is saying that there are two places where he does not know how to explain the additional words.  He does not know how R. Yehuda accounts for the unnecessary "donkey" in the laws of damages, since he does not use it to absolve the owner of a pit from responsibility for damage to kelim, the way the Rabbis do.  In addition, the word "sheep" in the laws of lost objects cannot be accounted for according to any position. 

    In the next section, the gemara attempts to address Rava's difficulty and to offer interpretations for the inclusion of the word "sheep" in the laws of lost objects.  Learn now from "ve-eima le-gelalim  ואימא לגללים" until "lav le-simanim hu de-ata לאו לסימנים הוא דאתא".  Lines 9-13 in the schematic analysis. 

    The gemara first suggests that perhaps the Torah added the word "sheep"  in order to include that the finder must not only return the animal but also its dung.  Why is this consideration not implicit in the other animals listed?  Rashi, s.v. le-gelalim לגללים, explains that it is possible to distinguish between dung and the shearings of the ox's tail.  The dung is even less valuable then the tail shearings and perhaps it does not need to be included.  For this reason, the argument goes, the Torah added the word "sheep" - so as to include the animal's dung in that which the finder is obligated to return. 

    The difficulty with this suggestion for interpreting the word "sheep", the gemara responds, is that it is simply not true.  The finder is not obliged to return the animal's dung.  The normal owner does not care about the dung of his lost animal and he makes it hefker; i.e. he renounces his ownership.  Rashi, s.v. afkuri mifkar le-hu אפקורי מפקר להו" ties this point neatly back to the mishna.  The owner need not exlicitly renounce the dung of his lost animal.  Simply by his disregard of the lost dung, the dung becomes something that has no claimant.  As we learned in the mishna, the mitzva of hashavat aveida applies only to items that have a claimant.  

    The gemara next offers a different suggestion for what could be the additional content provided by the word "sheep."  Perhaps "sheep" comes to teach us that a lost object can be identified through simanim.  There is a question about the status of simanim: is the ability to identify an object through simanim an intrinsic part of Biblical law (mi-d'oraita) or merely a Rabbinic enactment, while on the Biblical level they only legitimate means of identification is through testimony? (the discussion of this question appears at the bottom of 27a.  We will get to it soon)  This question can be resolved through the use of the word "sheep".  Since a sheep is something that ordinarily has simanim, it was included among the lost objects mentioned by the Torah in order to teach us that simanim are a valid means of identifying lost objects.  

    However, the gemara concludes, this explanation of the inclusion of the word sheep is also not successful.  If we are going to claim that the validity of simanim is already implicit in the Biblical text, we already have a candidate to attach it too.  As we saw in the mishna, the validity of simanim is already derived from the word "garment."  As the mishna says, "Just as a garment is distinct in that it has simanim and [someone] who claims it, so everything that has simanim and  [someone] who claims it must be announced."  Since simanim are already derived from "garment" there is no need for "sheep" and we remain at a loss to explain why the Torah specified "sheep." 

    Summary:  This week we have encountered midrash halakha and seen how the Rabbis connect some of the laws of hashavat aveida to the Biblical verses.  One of the guiding principles of midrash halakha is that a halakhic passage is not redundant and thus any additional words must include additional content.  As is apparent, this additional content need not be part of the literal meaning of the words.  Rather, the additional words signify, or point to, additional laws.  We also saw that midrash halakha is not merely the 'reading off' of laws from the Biblical text but something more complicated.  There exists an Oral tradition alongside the Biblical one and one of the tasks of midrash halakha is to connect the two.  Even the Amoraim do not always know how or whether they connect, as we saw that Rava could not account for the word "sheep" and that there was a question regarding whether the principle of simanim can be founded upon the Biblical text. 


Schematic Analysis #22

Schematic analysis from the mishna on 27a until "lav le-simanim hu de-ata לאו לסימנים הוא דאתא"

Translation of gemara Schematic Analysis Text of gemara 27a.

1.  MISHNAH. The garment was also included in all of these.  Why was it singled out?  To draw an analogy to saying to you: Just as a garment is distinct in that it has simanim and [someone] who claims it, so everything that has simanim and  [someone] who claims it must be announced. 

Mishna that teaches a Midrash Halakha

1.  משנה. אף השמלה היתה בכלל כל אלו, ולמה יצאת - להקיש אליה, לומר לך: מה שמלה מיוחדת - שיש בה סימנין ויש לה תובעין, אף כל דבר שיש בו סימנין ויש לו תובעים - חייב להכריז.

2.  GEMARA. What is meant by "included in all of these?"  Said Rava: included in (Devarim 22) "all the lost articles of your brother."

Explanation of a passage in the mishna.

2.  גמרא. מאי בכלל כל אלו? אמר רבא: בכלל +דברים כ"ב+ כל אבדת אחיך.    

3.  Rava said: Why does [God in] the Torah enumerate ox, donkey, sheep and garment? 

Question about the verse referred to in the mishna.

3.  אמר רבא: למה לי דכתב רחמנא שור חמור שה ושמלה?

4.  They are all necessary. For had the Torah mentioned 'garment' alone, I would have thought: That is only when there are witnesses about the object itself or simanim on object itself.  But [on the basis of] witnesses about its saddle or simanim on its saddle  [to identify] a donkey, I would say we do not return it to him.  Therefore the Torah wrote 'donkey,' to show that even the donkey[is returned] through the simanim of its saddle. Explanation

4.  צריכי, דאי כתב רחמנא שמלה, הוה אמינא: הני מילי - בעדים דגופה וסימנין דגופה, אבל חמור בעדים דאוכף וסימנין דאוכף - אימא לא מהדרינן ליה, כתב רחמנא חמור, דאפילו חמור בסימני האוכף.

5.  For what purpose did the Torah mention 'ox' and 'sheep'?'  Further question regarding above verse.

5.  שור ושה דכתב רחמנא למה לי?

6.  'Ox', that even the shearing of its tail, and 'sheep', that even its shearings [must be returned]. Explanation

6.  שור - דאפילו לגיזת זנבו, ושה - לגיזותיו.

7.  The Torah should have mentioned 'ox', to show that even the shearings of its tail [must be returned], and all the more so [we would know that] the shearings of a sheep [must be returned]! Further question regarding above verse.

7.  ולכתוב רחמנא שור, דאפילו לגיזת זנבו, וכל שכן שה לגיזותיו!

8.  Rather, said Rava, 'donkey,' according to R. Yehuda's position on a pit, and 'sheep' according to everyone are difficult [to explain]. Resignation that no anwer is to be found.

8.  אלא אמר רבא: חמור דבור לרבי יהודה, ושה דאבידה לדברי הכל קשיא.

9.  But why not say that it comes [to teach] that the dung [too must be returned]?  Suggested answer.

9.  ואימא לגללים הוא דאתא! -

10.  [The ownership of] dung is renounced. rejection of suggestion.

10.  גללים אפקורי מפקר להו.

11.  But perhaps its purpose is to teach the law of simanim? Further suggestion

11.  ודילמא לסימנין הוא דאתא?

12.  As we inquired:  Are simanim Biblically valid [as a means of proving ownership] or only by Rabbinical law;  therefore the Torah wrote 'sheep' to show that even on the strength of simanim we return [lost objects] and simanim are Biblically valid!  Exposition of above suggestion.

12.  דאיבעיא לן: סימנין דאורייתא או דרבנן, כתב רחמנא שה - דאפילו בסימנין מהדרינן, וסימנין דאורייתא! -

13.  I will tell you: since the Tanna refers to identification marks in connection with 'garment', for he teaches, Just as a garment is distinct in that it has simanim and [someone] who claims it - and thus must be announced, so everything that has simanim and  [someone] who claims it must be announced.  Conclude from this that the purpose of 'sheep' is not to teach the validity of simanim. Rejection of above suggestion with explanation.

13.  אמרי, מדקתני להו תנא לסימנין גבי שמלה, דקתני: מה שמלה מיוחדת שיש בה סימנין ויש לה תובעין - חייב להכריז, אף כל דבר שיש בו סימנין ויש לו תובעין - חייב להכריז, שמע מינה דשה לאו לסימנין הוא דאתא.



Selections from Rashi, daf 27a.


Rashi Text

Chamor de-bor le-rabi Yehuda, 'Donkey,' according to R. Yehuda's position on a pit' - [R. Yehuda] obligates [the person responsible for the pit] for damages incurred to kelim (utensils) by a pit [and not merely the damage done to the animal carrying the kelim].  According to this position it is difficult why [the word 'donkey'] it was included.  In contrast, according to the Rabbis, we require [the word 'donkey'] to teach us:  "[damage to] an ox, and not a [damage to a] person, [damage to] a donkey and [not damage to] kelim."

חמור דבור לרבי יהודה - דמחייב על נזקי כלים בבור, קשיא לן למאי אתא, דאילו לרבנן - מבעי להו: שור ולא אדם, חמור ולא כלים.

le-gelalim, for its dung - i.e. to return its dung.  If [the Torah] has written only "ox", I might have thought that it [ox] is specified to include the shearings of its tail, but dung is not significant, and need not be returned.  [Therefore], the Torah wrote and additional word to include also dung. 

לגללים - להחזיר את גלליו, דאי כתב שור - הוה אמינא: כי אתא - לגיזת זנבו אתא, אבל גללים - לא חשיבי, ולא ליהדר, כתב רחמנא קרא יתירא לאתויי גללים.

afkuri mifkar le-hu, he renounces it - to whomever exerted himself for it [the animal].  The Torah did not include it (the dung) for it does not have someone who claims it. 

אפקורי מפקר להו - למי שטרח בו, ולא אתא קרא לרבויינהו, דאין לו תובעין הוא.


Key Gemara Terms

hava amina: I would have said (thought, supposed)

הייתי אומר

הוה אמינא

hani milei: these things (words)

דברים אלה

הני מילי

tzirikhi, de-i katav rachmana... hava amina... katav rachman: lit. they are needed, for if the Torah had written... I would have said...[therefore] the Torah wrote...  This is the form in which the gemara usually explains why seemingly unnecessary words or verses appear in the Torah.  The explanation involves explicating the potential misunderstanding that would arise if the relevant words were left out. 

צריכי, דאי כתב רחמנא...הוה אמינא...כתב רחמנא


General vocabulary

hava amina: I would have said (thought, supposed)

הייתי אומר

הוה אמינא

hani milei: these things (words)

דברים אלה

הני מילי

le-divrei ha-kol:  according to all

לדברי הכל

tzirikhi, de-i katav rachmana... hava amina... katav rachman: lit. they are needed, for if the Torah had written... I would have said...[therefore] the Torah wrote...  This is the form in which the gemara usually explains why seemingly unnecessary words or verses appear in the Torah.  The explanation involves explicating the potential misunderstanding that would arise if the relevant words were left out. 

צריכי, דאי כתב רחמנא...הוה אמינא...כתב רחמנא

Rachmana:  lit. the Merciful One, i.e. God.  Used specifically to refer to the text of God's word, the Torah, as in 'katav Rachmana'.