Elu Metziot shiur #25, 27b-28a

  • Rav Joshua Amaru

Introduction to the Study of Talmud
By Rav Josh Amaru

Elu Metziot shiur #25,  27b-28a.

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
http://www.vbm-torah.org/talmud2/vocab.htm.  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 
http://www.e-daf.com/daf.asp?ID=3079 and 
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 began examining the question of whether to regard simanim as de-oraita, a Biblically ordained law, or as de-rabanan, a Rabbinic enactment.  The difference lies in whether we will trust the evidence provided by simanim only in civil law or also in ritual law.  So far, various proofs have been put forward but none have been found to be conclusive. 

    Learn on 27b from "leima ka-tanai לימא כתנאי" until "shuma lav siman muvhak hu שומא לאו סימן מובהק הוא."  Lines 1-5 in the schematic analysis.

The gemara now suggests that the machloket in a baraita between Elazar ben Mahavai and an anonymous tana about whether we accept testimony about a mole (i.e. a skin marking) is based on a disagreement concerning the status of simanim.  What is this baraita talking about?  Look in Rashi, s.v. ein meidin al ha-shuma אין מעידין על השומא.  Rashi explains that the witnesses are testifying that a particular woman's husband has died and therefore she may remarry.  The question is whether they can identify the corpse on the basis of a mole that her husband had. 

    The gemara claims that the machloket between  Elazar ben Mahavai and the Tana Kama should be understood to be about our question as to whether simanim are de-oraita or de-rabanan.  The Tana Kama, who does not accept testimony identifying the husband by a mole, holds that simanim, e.g. the mole, are de-rabanan and therefore they have no standing in the realm of ritual law.  The husband's body must be identified in some other way.  Elazar ben Mahavai holds that simanim are de-oraita and therefore he does allow the witnesses to identify the body on the strength of the siman

Rava rejects this way of understanding the machloket between the tana kama and Elazar ben Mahavai.  He offers instead three alternative interpretations of the machloket.

    First, one can understand that both sides concede that simanim are de-oraita and the question is whether a mole counts as a good siman.  The Tana Kama holds that a mole is not a good siman since one's ben gil is likely to have the same sort of mole.  Such a mole does not uniquely identify a particular person and thus is not useful.  Elazar ben Mahavai does not think that one's ben gil is likely to have the same mole and so does trust a mole as a siman. 

Ben gilAstrological beliefs were pervasive throughout the ancient world, including in Babylonia during the period of the Amoraim.  The idea of ben gil was that being born at the same time created some sort of affinity between people.  These notions were not regarded as superstitious but rather as scientific - given the prevailing cosmology, it was clear that the stars and the planets had influence, the only question was what that influence was. 

Alternatively, one could interpret the machloket between the Tana Kama and Elazar ben Mahavai as follows:  They both agree that one's ben gil cannot be expected to have the same simanim. The question is whether physical markings on one's body change after death.  The Tana Kama believes that they do and therefore does not accept an identification based on a mole found on a corpse.  Elazar ben Mahavai believes that skin markings do not change and is thus willing to identify the body based on the mole.

A third option:  Both sides agree that simanim do not change at death.  They also agree that generally simanim are de-rabanan.  They disagree about the status of a mole.  Elazar ben Mahavai holds that a mole is a extraordinary siman such that it is accepted as evidence even for ritual law.  The Tana Kama holds that a mole is merely a regular sign, so it is not valid evidence for ritual law. 

Siman muvhak, an extraordinary sign:  The gemara here distinguishes between unequivocable simanim and regular ones.  According to Rashi, s.v. muvhak מובהק, in the case of a siman muvhak, even though simanim are derabanan, one can rely upon them.  In other words, according to the opinion that simanim are de-rabanan, there were two different rabbinical enactments.  The rabbis validated regular simanim for civil purposes based upon hefker beit din hefker (see last week's shiur).  They also gave clear, unequivocable simanim the force of full-fledged evidence such that they are valid even for ritual law.  Other rishonim argue (e.g. Ramban B.M. 18b) that the status of a siman muvhak was never in question and everyone agrees that it is valid mi-deoraita.  The discussion in our sugya is limited to investigating the source of the validity of regular simanim.

    Learn now on 27b from (11 lines from the bottom) "Amar Rava  אמר רבא" until (5 lines from the bottom) "veshakilna la ושקילנא לה".  Lines 5-8 in the schematic analysis. 

    At this point, the gemara ceases to try to use precedents to prove whether simanim are de-oraita or de-rabanan and takes a different tack.  Rava inquires into the logical underpinnings of the notion that simanim are de-rabanan.  He asks rhetorically - if simanim are de-rabanan,  how is it that we return lost objects based upon simanim?   Rashi, s.v. heikhi mehadrinan היכי מהדרינן, explains that Rava wants to understand the Rabbis' motivation for diverging from the Biblical law and instituting a way for someone (i.e., one who presents simanim) to claim property that may not belong to him. Rava suggests that the basis of such an enactment lies in a sense of the general interest.  Since everyone wants to be able to recover their own lost property, even if their only evidence of ownership is simanim, it is in everyone's interest to return property found by them so that they will receive the same treatment in turn.  In other words, the validity of simanim is founded on a kind of unwritten agreement that the use of simanim is better in the long run for everyone. 

    Rav Safra questions Rava's logic:  How can the finder do himself a favor at someone else's expense?  What right does he have to ensure his own ability to retrieve lost objects on the evidence of simanim by applying a liberal standard of evidence in identifying the owner of the property he has found?  The finder, after all is responsible for the lost object until its owner can be ascertained.   What right does he have to give it over to someone who presents simanim when that person, according to Biblical law, may not be the owner?  Perhaps the owner will appear tomorrow with witnesses?

    Rava therefore refines his logic.  The justification for simanim cannot lie in the interests of the finder but must be found in the interests of the owner.  Only the owner can give up on his right that his property be protected.  Relying on simanim, however, is also in the owner's interest - often the owner will not have witnesses to the effect that he or she is the owner of a particular lost object.  Under such circumstances, it is in the owner's interest that the finder hand over a lost object on the basis of simanim.  Most of the time, only the owner will be capable of providing simanim, and thus ability to recover his lost objects even without witnesses outweighs the danger that someone will fraudulently acquire his or her lost object. 

    Learn now on 27b from "ela ha di-tenan אלא הא דתנן" until "la shekhichi לא שכיחי" (the bottom of the page).  Lines 9-10 in the schematic analysis.

    The gemara challenges Rava's explanation of how  the position that simanim are de-rabanan can be based upon the psychology of the owner.  It quotes a mishna that teaches us a rule for determining the owner of a bundle of promissory notes.  If they have one lender and different borrowers, then presumably they were lost by the lender and should be returned to him (for whom they are evidence that he is owed the amount recorded in the notes).  If they have one borrower and different lenders, then presumably they were lost by the borrower (for whom possession of the note is evidence that he has paid his debt). This ruling does not fit well with the psychology laid out by Rava

    As we saw, Rava explained that if simanim are de-rabanan, the motivation for the rabbinic enactment lay in the protection of the rights of the of owner of the lost property.  Since he will often not have witnesses as to his ownership of a particular item, it is in his interest that he be believed when he presents simanim so that he can recover his lost object.  However, in the case of the mishna, this is not the case.  As Rashi explains in s.v. ela ha de-tenan אלא הא דתנן, there is a difference in the interests of a borrower and a lender in terms of recovering a lost promissory note.  If the note is in the possession of  the lender, it is evidence that he is owed money and therefore he is very interested in its recovery.  If it is in the borrower's possession, then presumably it is already paid.  The borrower has no real interest in possession of the note except in so far as to keep it from the lender so that he will not claim payment again.  The mishna teaches us that according to the siman of the common name that appears on the three notes in the bundle, we return the bundle of notes.  If the borrower was the one who lost the notes, this is not in his interest  -  he would much rather no one be able to recover these notes, since so long as they are not in the possession of the lender, he does not have to pay them.  Thus according to Rava, at least in this scenario, we should not return the notes based on simanim, since one of the possible owners would certainly prefer that it not be so easy to claim the notes. 

    The gemara responds to this difficulty by explaining that the case of the promissory notes is different.  There, as opposed to in the usual case, the basis for following the siman is not the implicit willingness of the owner to trust simanim.  Rather, when different notes with different borrowers but the same lender are bound together, it is extremely unlikely that they were lost by anyone but the lender.  If one of the borrowers lost the notes, why are the other notes in other people's names?  In other words, even according to the position that simanim are de-rabanan, it appears that there are cases where we trust simanim as evidence, and our reliance upon them is not a function of some Rabbinic enactment that is based on the implicit psychology of the owner. 

Now learn on 28a from "ela ha di-tenan אלא הא דתנן" until "shema mina שמע מינה ".  Lines 11-12 in the schematic analysis. 

    The gemara next challenges Rava's explanation of simanim de-rabanan from the first part of the mishna quoted above (in the name of R. Shimon ben Gamliel).  In this mishna, we are taught that if one finds a bundle of promisory notes, one must return them to whomever presents a siman.  The borrower, however, would prefer that the notes not be returned on the strength of a siman, since he does not really benefit from recovering them himself and he is harmed if the lender gets them.  So here we have a case where the psychological basis of simanim does not apply, and yet the mishna rules that we rely upon simanim

    Rava concludes that simanim must be de-oraita.  As such they do not need to be justified in terms of the interests of the possible owners but are a legitimate form of evidence.  He supports this conclusion with a midrash halakha that we have already seen:   The Torah teaches that the finder of a lost object must take care of it "until your fellow seeks after it and [then] you must return it to him."  If the words "seek after it" refer to the claim made on the part of the original owner, then they teach that one  is obliged to return a lost object only when the loser claims it as his own.  But why would the Torah need to state that explicitly - to whom else would one return a lost object if not to one who claims it?  Instead, we should interpret the words ""until your fellow seeks after it"  to teach  a different point - that finder should test (i.e. seek out) the claimant to see that he is not a fraud.  

    How does the finder test the claimant's claim?  Apparently by whether he or she can present simanim.  Since this requirement of "seeking out" the claimant, i.e. verifying his honesty, appears to be de-oraita, it would appear that simanim as well are de-oraita.  So Rava concludes, and as far as he is considered, the question of whether simanim are de-oraita or de-rabanan has been answered - they are de-oraita.

    In the next section of the gemara, Rava explores the implications of this ruling that simanim are de-oraita.  Most of what follows is a list of preference rules for the court to follow when faced with conflicting evidence.  Learn, on 28a, from "amar Rava אמר רבא" until "yinaten le-midat mishkelotav ינתן למידת משקלותיו".  Lines 13-16 in the schematic analysis.

    Rava introduces his series of rulings by stating what their pre-supposition is:  "If you say that simanan are de-oraita..."  Before it continues with the list of rulings, the gemara interrupts and questions the tentativeness of Rava's formulation.  Why does he introduce his rulings with the qualifier "if you say..."  Did Rava not rule conclusively that simanim are de-oraita?  If so, then the question is no longer open!  The gemara explains that since Rava proved his case based on the midrash halakha about ""until your fellow seeks after it", one could still reject his conclusion by explaining the "seeking out" in the midrash halakha as we did above (see shiur #24), as requiring witnesses to verify the identity of the owner.  Since Rava is aware that the simanim de-oraita/derabanan question is not entirely closed, he states his rulings conditionally. 

    Some of the rulings turn on the evidential weight of simanim.  If two parties bring simanim - the finder should hold onto the lost object until one can bring more substantial proof.  Two witnesses, which is the ultimate form of evidence in halakha, trump simanim.  One witness, however, has no evidentiary weight and is disregarded. 

    The content of the witnesses' testimony is also relevant.  If one set of witnesses testify that the lost object was made by one person and another testify that it was lost by another person, we award the lost object to the person who lost it.  The witnesses do not necessarily cancel each other out, since it is possible that one person made (in the gemara's example, knit) the object and then sold it, such that it came into the other's possession. 

     The gemara also addresses the relative value of different kinds of  simanim:.  One who states the length of a garment has precedent over one who states the width, since it is unlikely that someone would know the length of a garment without being its owner.  The width, on the the other hand, could be guessed by seeing someone else who was wearing it.  More specific measurements are preferred:  One who states the length and width of a garment takes precedent over someone who states their sum, called the "gam",  without specifying the length and width.  Weight, however is a better siman than length and width.

    The gemara continues its list of rulings, including some parenthetical remarks.    Learn now on 28a  from "hu omer simanei ha-get הוא אומר סימני הגט" until the mishna.  Lines 17-25 in the schematic analysis. 

    The gemara next discusses a lost get (bill of divorce).  As you may recall, returning the get to the right party is a matter of great importance.  If the the wife was in possession of the get, then the couple is already divorced and the get is her evidence that this is so, allowing her to remarry.  If the husband was in possession of the get, then he presumably has not given it to his wife, and they are not divorced.  What happens when they both present simanim of the get?  To whom should the finder return it?

    The gemara rules that in such a case, the get should be given to her, presumably because the fact that she knows how to identify it indicates that it already had come into her possession.   However, the gemara qualifies this ruling:  If the simanim she presented  refer merely to the external appearance of the get, its length and width, then we cannot assume that her knowledge of these fact indicates that she lost it.  It is possible that she saw the get in her husband's possession and on that basis is claiming that she lost it and she is already divorced.  Therefore, we trust the simanim presented by the woman only when the unequivocably indicate that she was in possession of the get; e.g., if she points out a small whole found near a specific letter. 

    The same sort of question arises when the husband and wife each present simanim not about the get itself but about the string it is tied with.  If the woman's siman is merely the color of the string, she could have known that without having received the get.  Rather, here too the woman's siman must be one that indicates that she had possession of the get; e.g. its length.

    The same principle is realized in the last ruling, where the simanim are about the box in which the get was found.  In such a case the ruling is that we give the get to the husband , since she is likely to know what sort of box he would keep it in. 

    In this shiur, we continued or discussion of the status of simanim, finally concluding, with Rava, that they are de-oraita.   We then addresses a number of issues involving conflicting simanim, focusing especially on a lost get.     



Schematic Analysis #25

Schematic analysis from "leima ka-tanai לימא כתנאי" on 27b until the mishna on 28a. 

Translation of gemara Schematic Analysis Text of gemara 27a-27b. 

1.  Shall we say that this is disputed by Tanaim? [For it was taught:] one cannot testify about a mole (i.e. skin marking); but Elazar ben Mahavai said: one may testify about a mole.

Assertion identifying the ba'aya with a previous machloket

1.  לימא כתנאי: אין מעידין על השומא, ואלעזר בן מהבאי אומר: מעידין על השומא.

2.  Do they not disagreed about the following:  The tana kama holds that simanim are [only] de-rabanan, while Elazar ben. Mahavai holds that they are de-oraita Ukimta relating the machloket to the ba'aya

2.  מאי לאו בהא קמיפלגי: דתנא קמא סבר: סימנין דרבנן, ואלעזר בן מהבאי סבר: סימנין דאורייתא.

3. Said Rava: Simanim are de-oraita according to all; they differ here as to whether a mole is to be found on one's ben gil. One Master maintains that a mole is [generally] found on a person's ben gil;  whilst the other holds that it is not.

Alternative understanding of the machloket.

3.  אמר רבא: דכולי עלמא סימנין דאורייתא, והכא - בשומא מצויה בבן גילו קמיפלגי. מר סבר: שומא מצויה בבן גילו, ומר סבר: שומא אינה מצויה בבן גילו.

4.  Alternatively, all agree that a mole is [generally] not found on one's ben gil; they differ here as to whether simanim are liable to change after death. One Master maintains: simanin are liable to change after death;  the other, that they are not.

Alternative understanding of the machloket

4.  איבעית אימא: דכולי עלמא שומא אינה מצויה בבן גילו, והכא - בסימנין העשוין להשתנות לאחר מיתה קמיפלגי. מר סבר: סימנין עשוים להשתנות לאחר מיתה, ומר סבר: סימנין אין עשוים להשתנות לאחר מיתה.

5. Alternatively, all agree that a mole is not liable to change after death, and simanin are de-rabanan; they differ here as to whether a mole is a clear siman. One Master maintains that a mole is a clear siman,  whilst the other holds that it is not. Alternative understanding of the machloket.

5.  איבעית אימא: דכולי עלמא שומא אינה עשויה להשתנות לאחר מיתה. וסימנין דרבנן, והכא בשומא סימן מובהק הוא קמיפלגי; מר סבר: שומא סימן מובהק הוא, ומר סבר: שומא לאו סימן מובהק הוא.

6.  Rava said: If you say that simanim are not de-orataita, why do we return a lost article based on simanim

Because one who finds a lost article is pleased that it should be returned on the strength of identification marks, so that should he lose anything, it will likewise be returned to him through marks of identification.

rhetorical question and explanation

6.  אמר רבא: אם תמצי לומר סימנין לאו דאורייתא היכי מהדרינן אבידתא בסימנין?   

דניחא ליה למוצא אבידה דנהדר בסימנין, כי היכי דכי אבדה ליה לדידה נמי נהדרו ליה בסימנין.

7.  Said R. Safra to Rava: Can a person benefit himself with money that does not belong to him?! Difficulty with above explanation

7.  אמר ליה רב ספרא לרבא: וכי אדם עושה טובה לעצמו בממון שאינו שלו?

8.  Rather,[the reason is this:] the loser himself is pleased to offer simanim and take it.  He knows full well that he has no witnesses; therefore he says to himself, 'No one knows its clear simanim; I will state its clear simanim marks and take it.' Alternative explanation

8.  אלא: ניחא ליה לבעל אבידה למיהב סימנין ולמשקליה. מידע ידע דעדים לית ליה, ומימר אמר: כולי עלמא לא ידעי סימנין מובהקים דידה, ואנא יהיבנא סימנין מובהקים דידה ושקלנא לה.

9.  But what of that which we learned in the mishna: R. Shimon ben Gamliel said: If it was one who had borrowed from three, he [the finder] must return [the notes of credit] to the borrower; if three had borrowed from one, he must return them to the lender. Is then the borrower pleased that it [the promissory note] is returned to the lender? Difficulty with the explanation just offered

9.  אלא הא דתנן, רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר: אחד הלוה משלשה - יחזיר ללוה, שלשה שלוו מן האחד - יחזיר למלוה, ניחא ליה ללוה לאהדורי ליה למלוה?

10.  He replied:  There, it is a matter of logic. If it was one man who had borrowed from three, he must return [them] to the borrower, because they are to be found [together] in the borrower's possession, but not in the lender's:  hence the borrower must have dropped it. If three had borrowed from one, it must be returned to the lender, because they are to be found in the lender's possession, but not in the borrower's. Resolution of the difficulty.

10. אמר ליה: התם סברא הוא, אחד הלוה משלשה יחזיר ללוה - דגבי לוה שכיחי, גבי מלוה לא שכיחי, שמע מינה מלוה נפול. שלשה שלוו מאחד יחזיר למלוה - דגבי מלוה שכיחי, גבי לוה לא שכיחי.  

11. [daf 28a] But what of that which we learnt: If one finds a roll of notes or a bundle of notes he must surrender [them]:  here too, [is then the reason] because the borrower is pleased that they should be returned to the lender! 

Additional difficulty

11.  [דף כח עמ' א'] אלא הא דתנן: מצא תכריך של שטרות או אגודה של שטרות - הרי זה יחזיר, הכי נמי דניחא ליה ללוה לאהדורי ליה למלוה?

12.  Therefore, said Rava, simanim are de-oraita, as it is written, "And it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it." Now, how would it then have occurred to you that he should return it to him before he sought it! Rather [it means this:] examine him [the claimant], whether he be a fraud or not.  Is this not through simanim?! Conclude thus. Conclusion derived from the lack of response to the difficulty with associated prooftext.

12.  אלא אמר רבא: סימנין דאורייתא, דכתיב +דברים כ"ב+  והיה עמך עד דרש אחיך אתו. וכי תעלה על דעתך שיתננו קודם שידרשנו? אלא, דרשהו אם רמאי הוא או אינו רמאי. לאו בסימנין? שמע מינה.

13.  Rava said: If you say that identification marks are de-oraita …

Opening of discussion

13.  אמר רבא: אם תמצי לומר סימנין דאורייתא.

14.  If you say!'  but he has established that they are de-oraita! Parenthetical remark raisinf a difficulty with the terminolgy used above.

14.  אם תמצי לומר? הא פשיט ליה סימנין דאורייתא! - .

15.  That is because it can be explained as was answered [above].    Explanation of above usage.  End of parenthetical remark.

15.  משום דאיכא למימר כדשנינן.

16. If two sets of simanim[are offered by two conflicting claimants], it [the lost article] must be left [in custody].  [If one has] simanim  and [the other] witnesses, it should be given to the one who has witnesses.  [If one has] simanim, and [the other has] simanim and one witness - one witness is as non-existent, and  it must be left. [If one has] witnesses of weaving,  and [the other] witnesses of dropping, it should be given to the [one who has] witnesses of dropping, because we say, He [the first] may have sold, and another lost it. [If one states] its length, and [another] its width, it must be given to [the one who states its] length; since it is possible to conjecture the breadth when its owner is standing and wearing it, whereas the length cannot be [easily] conjectured.  [If one states] its length and width, and another its gam,  it should be given to the one [who gave] its length and width . Length, width, and weight, it must be given to [the one who states] its weight.


list of ruling about simanim

16.  סימנין וסימנין - יניח, סימנין ועדים - ינתן לבעל העדים, סימנין וסימנין ועד אחד - עד אחד כמאן דליתיה דמי, ויניח. עדי אריגה ועדי נפילה - תנתן לעדי נפילה, דאמרינן זבוני זבנה, ומאיניש אחרינא נפל. מדת ארכו ומדת רחבו - תנתן למדת ארכו, דמדת רחבו שעורי קא משער לה כד מכסי לה מרה וקאי, ומדת ארכו לא משתער לה. מדת ארכו ומדת רחבו ומדת גמיו - ינתן למדת ארכו ורחבו. מדת ארכו ומדת רחבו ומדת משקלותיו - ינתן למדת משקלותיו.

17.  If he [the husband] states the simanim of a get, and she [also] states the simanim of a get  it should be given to her. 

continuation of list

17.  הוא אומר סימני הגט והיא אומרת סימני הגט - ינתן לה.

18.  With what [simanim]? If we say, by its length and breadth, perhaps she saw it while he was holding it?!   Question about above ruling.

18.  במאי? אילימא במדת ארכו ורחבו - דלמא בהדי דנקיט ליה חזיתיה!

19. Therefore [it must be a siman like] 'it had a hole at the side of a certain letter. Clarification of above ruling.

19.  אלא: נקב יש בו בצד אות פלוני.

20.  If he identifies the ribbon [with which the get was tied], and she does likewise, it should be given to her. Additional ruling

20.  הוא אומר סימני החוט והיא אומרת סמני החוט - ינתן לה.

21.  With what [simanim]? If we say, by [its colour], white or red, perhaps she saw it whilst he was holding it! Question about above ruling.

21.  במאי? אילימא בחיורא ובסומקא - ודלמא בהדי דנקיט ליה חזיתיה?

22. Therefore, [it must be a siman like] its length. Clarification of above ruling.

22.  אלא, במדת ארכו.

23.  If he says, [it was found] in a case, and she says in case, it should be given to him.  Additional ruling

23.  הוא אומר בחפיסה והיא אומרת בחפיסה - ינתן לו,

24.  Why? Question about above ruling.

24.  מאי טעמא?

25.  She knows full well that he places whatever he has [of his documents] in a case. Explanation of above ruling.

25.  מידע ידעה דכל מה דאית ליה - בחפיסה הוא דמנח ליה.



Selections from Rashi, daf 27b.

Rashi Text


אין מעידין על השומא - המעידין על האשה להשיאה, ואמרו: סימן היה בו, שומא באבר פלוני.

Ein meidin al ha-shuma, one cannot testify about a mole - when [witnesses] are testifying about a woman ['s unmarried status] in order that she should be able to marry, and they say [in order to identify her] 'she had a mole on such and such limb.'

מובהק - ואפילו סימנין דרבנן, יש לסמוך על זה.

muvhak, clear - even if simanim are de-rabanan, this can be relied upon.

היכי מהדרינן - כלומר: מה תקנה ראו חכמים בדבר ליכנס בספק להחזיר ממון למי שאינו שלו?

 heikhi mehadrinan, how is it that we return - In other words:  what is the benefit that the Rabbis wished to gain in returning property to someone about whom there is a doubt that it is his?

אלא הא דתנן כו' - ואמרו להחזיר לו למלוה בלא עדים בסימן זה שאומר שלשה היו, ומשלשה לוים, ואם מן הלוה נפלו שכבר פרעם - מי ניחא ליה בתקנה זו שיתנם המוצאם לכל הבא ונותן סימניהם, והלא טוב לו שיהו מונחים ביד המוצאם עולמית, דכל זמן שהם בידו ולא יחזירם למלוה הרי הם כשרופים, ולא ניחא דליהדר להו בסימנין דלמא מיתרמי דידע מלוה בסימניהן.

ela ha detenan khu', but that which we learned in the mishna - and they said to return [the notes] to the lender without [proof offerred by] witnesses, by means of this siman that he say that there were three [notes] from three borrowers.  If the notes fell from [one of] the borrower[s], who has already paid, how is it in his interest that there be a rule that they [the notes] be returned to anyone who presents simanim?  It is better for him that they [be left to] lie forever in the possession of whoever found them, since so long as he has them and does not give them to the lender, it is as if they are burnt up.  It is thus not in his interest that the notes be returned with simanim, on the risk that the lender will be able to provide simanim.


Key Gemara Terms

loveh:  borrower, debtor.


malveh:  lender, creditor


shekhichi:   found, usual.



General vocabulary

ben gil: a person born at the same hour and under the same planetary influence.

בן גיל

gam, gamav: gamav = his gam.  the gam is the sum total of its length and breadth. The term Gam has been identified with the Greek Gnomon, the carpenter's square, and is derived from the Hebrew gimel, which has the shape of an axe, or carpenter's square.

גם, גמיו

chiver, chivra: White


loveh:  borrower, debtor.


malveh:  lender, creditor


sumka, sumak:  red


shekhichi:   found, usual.