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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Bathra

Folio 3a

so that I may keep out of your sight.1

Another version [of the above discussion is as follows]. It was presumed [in the Beth Hamidrash] that mehizah means 'division', as in the verse, and the congregation's mehezath was etc. Since then the partners agree to make a division, they are compelled [according to the Mishnah] to build a wall. This would show that overlooking is a substantial damage. May I not say, however, that mehizah means a wall, as we have learnt: 'If the mehizah of a vineyard has been broken down, the owner [of an adjoining cornfield] can require the owner of the vineyard to restore it. If it is broken down again, he can again require him to restore it. If [the owner of the vineyard] neglects the matter and does not restore it, he causes his neighbour's produce to become forfeit, and is responsible for his loss.' [This being so],2  the reason why either can be compelled [to assist in putting up the wall] is because they both agreed; but if either did not agree, he cannot be compelled. From which we infer that overlooking is not a substantial damage. If that is so,3  instead of THEY SHOULD BUILD THE WALL, the Mishnah should say, they should build it'? — You say then that mehizah means 'division'. If so, instead of 'who agreed to make a division', the Mishnah should say, 'who agreed to divide'? — It is usual for men to say, 'Come, let us make a division.'4

But if overlooking is a substantial damage, why does it speak of the partners agreeing? Even if they do not agree, [either should be able to demand a division]? — To this R. Assi answered in the name of R. Johanan: Our Mishnah is speaking of a courtyard where there is no right of division,5  and where therefore [a division is made only] if both agree.

The Mishnah then tells us [according to this] that where there is no right of division, they may still divide, if they so agree. We have learnt this already, [in the following passage]: 'When does this rule apply?6  When both of them do not consent to divide; but if both consent, even when it is smaller than this they divide'?7  — If I had only that to go by, I should say that where it is smaller than this they may divide with a mere fence of sticks. Therefore it tells us here that it must be a wall.8

But could not the Mishnah then state this case and omit the other?9  — The other case was stated to introduce the succeeding clause: Scrolls of the Scriptures must not be divided even if both [joint owners] agree.

How then have you explained the Mishnah? As applying to a courtyard in which there is no right of division. If it is speaking of one in which there is no right of division, even if both owners consent, what does it matter? Either of them can retract? — R. Assi answered in the name of R. Johanan: We assume that each made a formal contract with the other, by means of a kinyan.10  But even if they made such a contract what does it matter, seeing that it relates only to a verbal agreement?11  — [We assume that] they contracted by a kinyan to take different sides.12  R. Ashi said: [And this becomes effective if13] for instance one traverses his own part and takes formal possession14  and the other does likewise.

IN DISTRICTS WHERE IT IS USUAL TO BUILD etc. GEBIL denotes untrimmed stones; GAZITH, squared stones, as it is written, All these were of costly stones according to the measure of hewn stones [gazith].15  KEFISIN are half bricks and LEBENIM whole bricks.16

Rabbah the son of Raba said to R. Ashi: How do we know that gebil means untrimmed stones, and that the extra handbreadth17  is to allow for the projection of the rough edges? May it not be that gebil is half the thickness of gazith, and this extra handbreadth is to allow for the mortar between the rows, in the same way as we defined kefisin to be half-bricks and lebenim whole bricks, the extra handbreadth being for the mortar between the rows? — He replied: Granting your analogy [between gebil and kefisin], how do we know that kefisin means half-bricks? From tradition. Similarly we know from tradition [that gebil means untrimmed stones]. According to another version, R. Aha the son of R. Awia said to R. Ashi: How do we know that kefisin means half bricks and the extra handbreadth is for the mortar between the rows? May it not be that kefisin means untrimmed stones and the extra handbreadth is for the projection of the rough edges, in the same way as we define gebil to be untrimmed stones and gazith to be polished stone, the extra handbreadth being for the mortar between the rows? — He replied: Granting your analogy [between kefisin and gebil], how do we know that gebil means untrimmed stones? From tradition. So we know this also from tradition.

Abaye said: We learn from this18  that the space between the layers [in a wall] should be a handbreadth.19  This, however, is the case only if it is filled with mortar,20  but if with rubble,21  more space is required. Some say: This is the case only if it is filled with rubble, but if mortar is used, not so much is required.

[The Mishnah seems] to assume that where squared stones are used, if for every four cubits of height there is a breadth of five handbreadths, the wall will stand, but otherwise not. What then of the Ammah Traksin22  which was thirty cubits high but only six handbreadths broad, and yet it stood? — The one extra handbreadth enabled it to stand.23  Why was there no Ammah Traksin in the Second Temple?24  — A thickness of six handbreadths will sustain a wall of thirty cubits but not more.25  How do we know that the Second Temple Was higher [than the first]? — Because it is written, Greater shall be the glory of the latter' house than the former.26  [The word 'greater' was interpreted differently by] Rab and Samuel [or, according to another report, by R. Johanan and R. Eleazar], one referring it to the size and the other

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Joint owners of a courtyard, however, if they do not divide it, do not use it for private purposes.
  2. That mehizah means wall.
  3. That mehizah means wall.
  4. And the Mishnah reproduces this expression.
  5. That is to say, one not large enough to allow of four cubits being assigned to each.
  6. That a courtyard is not to be divided if each part will not be large enough to be still called a courtyard.
  7. Infra 22a.
  8. Because overlooking is a substantial damage.
  9. The later Mishnah just quoted, seeing that we can learn this rule from the Mishnah here.
  10. Lit., 'acquisition': the handing of a small article, usually a piece of cloth, by one of the contracting parties to the other, as a symbol that the object transferred has passed from the ownership of the one to that of the other. v. B.M. 47a.
  11. That is to say, that of which ownership is acquired by the kinyan is only a verbal promise (viz. to divide), not any concrete article.
  12. E.g., one the north side and one the south, so that something concrete was involved in the transaction.
  13. V. Tosaf. s.v. cr
  14. By digging a little or so forth.
  15. I Kings VII, 9.
  16. A whole brick was three handbreadths thick, but if two half-bricks were used, an extra half-handbreadth would be required for each for the mortar.
  17. Required for a wall of gebil as against a wall of gazith.
  18. From the fact that kefisin require a handbreadth more than lebenim.
  19. Unless otherwise specified in a contract for a wall.
  20. Made only of clay or mud.
  21. In which small stones are mixed with the clay.
  22. Lit., 'the cubit of the partition' (perhaps =[G]): a wall separating the Holy from the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Solomon.
  23. I.e., although five handbreadths are required for a height of four cubits, six handbreadths will sustain a wall much higher.
  24. Where only a curtain separated the Holy from the Holy of Holies.
  25. The Second Temple was 100 cubits high. v. Mid. IV, 6.
  26. Hag. II, 9.
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Baba Bathra 3b

to the duration; and both are correct.1

Why did they not [in the Second Temple] build a wall thirty cubits high and use a curtain for the remaining [seventy cubits]? — Even the thirty cubit wall [of the First Temple] was only sustained by the ceiling and plaster [of the room above it], but without such a ceiling and plaster it could not stand [with a breadth of only six handbreadths]. But why did they not build a wall as high as possible [with a breadth of six handbreadths] and use a curtain for the rest? — Abaye replied: It was known to them by tradition that the partition should be wholly a wall or wholly a curtain, either wholly a wall as in the First Temple, or wholly a curtain as in the Tabernacle.

The question was raised: [Do the measurements given in the Mishnah] apply to the material with the [outside] plaster, or to the materials without the plaster?2  — R. Nahman b. Isaac replied: It is reasonable to assume that the plaster is included, since if the plaster is not included, its measurement should [also] have been specified. We may conclude therefore that the plaster is included. No! I may still say that the measurements given refer to the material without the plaster, and the reason why that of the plaster is not specified is because it is less than a handbreadth. But in the case of bricks, does it not say that one gives a handbreadth and a half and the other likewise?3  — There [half-handbreadths are mentioned] because the two halves can be combined [to form a whole one].

Come and hear [an objection to this]: 'The beam4  of which they speak should be wide enough to hold an ariah, which is the half of a lebenah of three handbreadths'.5  — There it is speaking of large bricks. This is indicated also by the expression 'half a brick of three handbreadths' which implies that there is a smaller variety. Hence it is proven.6

R. Hisda said: A synagogue should not be demolished before another has been built to take its place. Some say the reason is lest the matter should be neglected,7  others to prevent any interruption of religious worship.8  What practical difference does it make which reason we adopt? — There is a difference if there is another synagogue.9  Meremar and Mar Zutra pulled down and rebuilt a summer synagogue in winter and a winter synagogue in summer.10

Rabina asked R. Ashi: Suppose money for a synagogue has been collected and is ready for use, is there still a risk?11  — He replied: They may be called upon to redeem captives and use it for that purpose.12  [Rabina asked further]: Suppose the bricks are already piled up and the lathes trimmed13  and the beams ready, what are we to say? — He replied: It can happen that money is suddenly required for the redemption of captives, and they may sell the material for that purpose. If they could do that, [he said], they could do the same even if they had already built the synagogue?14  — He answered: People do not sell their dwelling-places.15

This rule [about pulling down a synagogue] only applies if no cracks have appeared in it, but if cracks have appeared, they may pull down first and build afterwards. A case in point is that of R. Ashi, who, observing cracks in the synagogue of Matha Mehasia,16  had it pulled down. He then took his bed there and did not remove it until the very gutters [of the new building] had been completed.

But how could Baba b. Buta have advised Herod to pull down the Temple,17  seeing that R. Hisda has laid down that a synagogue should not be demolished until a new one has been built to take its place? — If you like I can say that cracks had appeared in it, or if you like I can say that the rule does not apply to Royalty, since a king does not go back on his word. For so said Samuel: If Royalty says, I will uproot mountains, it will uproot them and not go back on its word.

Herod was the slave of the Hasmonean house, and had set his eyes on a certain maiden [of that house].18  One day he heard a Bath Kol19  say, 'Every slave that rebels now will succeed.' So he rose and killed all the members of his master's20  household, but spared that maiden. When she saw that he wanted to marry her, she went up on to a roof and cried out, 'Whoever comes and says, I am from the Hasmonean house, is a slave, since I21  alone am left of it, and I am throwing myself down from this roof.' He preserved her body in honey for seven years. Some say that he had intercourse with her, others that he did not. According to those who say that he had intercourse with her, his reason for embalming her was to gratify his desires. According to those who say that he did not have intercourse with her, his reason was that people might say that he had married a king's daughter.

Who are they, he said, who teach, From the midst of thy brethren thou shalt set up a king over thee,22  [stressing the word 'brethren']? The Rabbis! He therefore arose and killed all the Rabbis, sparing, however, Baba b. Buta, that he might take counsel of him.

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. The First Temple is supposed to have stood 410 years, the Second 420.
  2. For which an extra allowance has to be made.
  3. Which shows that measurements less than a handbreadth are specified by the Mishnah.
  4. The beam placed across the entrance to an alley-way to enable articles to be carried in it on Sabbath.
  5. 'Er. 13 b. This shows that a lebenah is three handbreadths without the plaster.
  6. That the three handbreadths of the Mishnah includes the plaster.
  7. So that the congregation will be left without a synagogue. Lit., 'on account of transgression'.
  8. During the time when the second synagogue is being built. Lit., 'on account of prayer'.
  9. In which case the second reason does not apply.
  10. In the summer a more airy building was used to escape the heat.
  11. That the building of the new one may be neglected.
  12. The redemption of captives was regarded as a mizwah of very great importance, and would take precedence of the building of a synagogue. Hence even in this case the old should not be demolished till the new is ready.
  13. For the roof.
  14. And therefore they should never pull down the old one.
  15. And much less a synagogue.
  16. [A suburb of Sura which attained fame as a centre of learning in the days of R. Ashi. v. Obermeyer, Die Landschaft Babyloniens, 289.]
  17. V. infra.
  18. Mariamne, the daughter of Alexander, a son of Aristobulus II. According to Josephus, she was put to death by Herod after being married to him several years.
  19. A voice from heaven. V. Gloss.
  20. [V. D.S. a.l.]
  21. Lit., 'this maiden'.
  22. Deut. XVII, 15.
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