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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Bathra
MISHNAH. A PLAIN DEED1 [MUST BEAR THE SIGNATURES OF] THE WITNESSES ON ITS INSIDE; A FOLDED ONE2 [MUST BEAR THE SIGNATURES OF] THE WITNESSES ON THE REVERSE.3 A PLAIN [ONE] THAT BEARS THE SIGNATURES OF THE WITNESSES ON THE REVERSE4 [AND] A FOLDED [ONE] THAT BEARS THE SIGNATURES OF ITS WITNESSES ON THE INSIDE ARE BOTH INVALID.5 R. HANINA B. GAMALIEL SAID: A FOLDED [DEED] THAT BEARS THE SIGNATURES OF THE WITNESSES ON ITS INSIDE IS VALID, BECAUSE IT CAN BE TURNED INTO A PLAIN [ONE].6 R. SIMEON B. GAMALIEL SAID: ALL DEPENDS ON7 THE USAGE OF THE COUNTRY. A PLAIN DEED REQUIRES TWO WITNESSES8 AND A FOLDED [ONE] THREE.9 A PLAIN [DEED] THAT BEARS THE SIGNATURE OF ONE WITNESS [ONLY]. AND A FOLDED [ONE] THAT BEARS THE SIGNATURES OF TWO WITNESSES [ONLY] ARE BOTH INVALID.
GEMARA. Whence these words?10 — R. Hanina said: For Scripture says, Men shall buy fields for money and subscribe the deeds, and seal them, and procure the evidence of witnesses.11 Men shall buy fields for money and subscribe the deeds,
Baba Bathra 160b
refers to1 the plain [deed]; and seal2 them, refers to1 the folded [one]; and procure the evidence, [implies] two [witnesses]3 witnesses, [implies] three.4 How [is] this5 [possible]? Two for a folded [deed]; three for a plain [one]. Might not this be reversed?6 — Since it has more folds,7 it [must also] have more witnesses.
Rafram said: [It8 may be derived] from the following.9 So I took the deed of the purchase, both that which was sealed, containing the terms and conditions, and that which was open.10 So I took the deed of the purchase, refers to11 the plain [deed]; that which was sealed, refers to the folded [one]; and that which was open. refers to the plain [portion] in the folded [deed];12 the terms and conditions, refers to13 the laws which distinguish14 the plain [deed] from15 the folded [one]. viz.,16 the one17 [requires] two witnesses18 and the other,17 three witnesses;18 the witnesses of the one [sign] on the obverse, while the witnesses of the other [sign] on the reverse side. Might not this be reversed?19 Since it has more folds20 it [must also] have more witnesses.
Rami b. Ezekiel said: [It21 may be derived] from, the following text.22 At the mouth of two witnesses, or at the month of three witnesses, shall a matter be established.23 If their evidence may be established by two, why should three be specified? To tell you [that] two [are required] for a plain [deed]; three for a folded [one]. Might not this be reversed? — Since it has more folds,20 it [must also] have more witnesses.
[Is it] for this [purpose]24 that the verses25 [mentioned] were intended?26 [Surely] each one is required27 for a separate purpose;28 as it was taught: [By the statement], men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe the deeds, and seal them,29 good advice was tendered;30 so I took the deed of the purchase,31 [is] just [a record of] what had happened; at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses,32 [has been specified], in order to compare three [witnesses] to two,33 concerning which34 R. Akiba and the Rabbis are in dispute!35 [The fact], however, [is that the law of] a folded [deed] is [only] Rabbinical, and the Scriptural verses [quoted] are a mere asmakta.36
What is the reason why the Rabbis instituted a folded [deed]? — They were [in] a place [inhabited] by priests, who were very hot-tempered and they divorced their wives.37 Consequently the Rabbis made [this] provision,38 so that in the meantime39 they might cool down.40 This satisfactorily explains bills of divorce; what [explanation, however], may be given41 [in the case of other] documents? — In order that there may be no distinction between bills of divorce and [other] deeds.
Where, [in the case of a folded deed], do the witnesses sign? — R. Huna said: Between [one] fold and the other;42 and R. Jeremiah b. Abba said: [On] the back of the writing and corresponding to [all] the written part, on the external [side of the deed].
Rami b. Hama said to R. Hisda: According to R. Huna who said [that the witnesses sign] 'between [one] fold and the other', assuming [that he meant], 'between [one] fold and the other on the external side'43 [the following objection may be raised]: Surely, a folded [deed] was once brought before Rabbi who remarked, 'There is no date on this [deed]'. [Thereupon] R. Simeon son of Rabbi said to Rabbi, 'It might be hidden between the folds'. [On] ripping [the seams] open he saw it.44 Now, if it were [so],45 he should have [remarked].' There is neither date nor are there witnesses on this deed!' — He replied to him: Do you think [that according to R. Huna the witnesses sign] between the folds on the inside? No; [they sign] between the folds on the outside.46 But [is there no reason] to apprehend that he might forge [the lower section of the folded deed]47 and enter whatever he wished [after] the witnesses had signed?48 — 'Firm and established', is entered on it.49 Is [there, however, no reason] to apprehend that he might enter whatever he wished and then write a second time, 'firm and established'? — [The formula], 'firm and established', is entered [only] once,50 not twice.51 Is [there no] apprehension that he might erase the [original] 'firm and established', and add52 whatever he wished, and then write, 'firm and established'? — Surely, R. Johanan said: A suspended [word53 that has been] confirmed54 is admissible;55
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