Bava Batra

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BAVA BATRA (Aram. בָּבָא בָּתְרָא, "last gate"), tractate of the Mishnah with Gemara in the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds. The tractates *Bava Kamma, *Bava*Meẓia, and Bava Batra were originally one large tractate, Nezikin. The division into three apparently took place in Babylonia: in the Babylonian Talmud there are indications that the Gemara of each of the three sections was edited by a different hand, while in the Jerusalem Talmud they are uniform.

Chapters 1–3 of Bava Batra deal essentially with laws relating to ownership of real estate. Chapter 1 discusses the division of a courtyard held by joint owners whose homes open onto it. They may build a stone partition, each owner contributing an equal amount of land for its construction. Consequently, if the partition falls, "the place and the stones belong to them both." This law is similar to Bava Meẓia 10:1, for the last chapter of Bava Meẓia opens the discussion on ownership continued here. A courtyard containing several houses is a small community, and the Mishnah discusses the obligations of the individual to this community. Next, the mutual obligations of "neighbors" are presented for the dwellers of one city. The Tosefta adds to these communal obligations: "The citizens of a town can compel each other to build a synagogue, and to purchase a scroll of the Torah and the Prophets. The citizens are permitted to fix price ceilings and control weights and measures …" (Tosef., bm 11:23). In chapter 2, the Mishnah imposes limitations upon the actions of the property owner within the bounds of his own property, when such acts are a source of damage or nuisance to neighbors. Personal privacy is protected by a law prohibiting construction of windows which command a close-range view into a neighbor's windows. The section on ownership concludes with chapter 3, which discusses the rules of *ḥazakah, according to which evidence of three years' undisturbed use of property can serve as proof of ownership. The Babylonian Talmud records many actual cases involving ḥazakah and disputed ownership, indicating the wide application of these laws in the area of Jewish real estate in Babylonia.

Concerning the acquisition of real estate, chapter 4 gives precise definitions of terms, so as to prevent a dispute between buyer and seller over what was included in the purchase. The list of legal definitions is continued in chapter 5 and extended to cover sale of movables. The variety of objects thus treated presents a wealth of precise Hebrew terminology and a rich description of the realia of Palestine during the mishnaic period. The remainder of this chapter expands on the requirement of justice in weights and measures (Lev. 19:35–36; Deut. 25:13–16), a topic related to purchase. Chapter 6 returns to definitions of objects of sale, not with regard to extent of inclusion but with regard to quality, i.e., to what degree the seller is required to replace inferior goods. The remainder of the chapter defines the minimum legal dimensions of various structures and tombs. Definitions of specific quantities of land mentioned in the sale of real estate are presented in chapter 7. This concludes the unit of "definitions," which began with chapter 6. The chapters discussed above deal with acquisition of property through purchase; chapters 8 and 9 consider acquisition of property by inheritance.

Chapter 10 contains rules for the proper preparation of legal documents by scribes, as well as the correct interpretation by the court of certain legal documents, especially bonds of indebtedness. This is a fitting conclusion to the tractate, since legal documents figure in acquisition, ownership, and other matters discussed in earlier chapters. The last Mishnah was intended, perhaps, as an apt conclusion for the entire trac-tate of Nezikin (the three Bavot, Bava Kamma, Bava Meẓia, and Bava Batra): "He that would become wise, let him occupy himself in cases concerning property, for there is no branch of law greater than they, for they are like a welling fountain" (10:8).

The Tosefta of Bava Batra contains 11 chapters. Generally the Tosefta follows the Mishnah, supplementing and paralleling it, but there are chapters where the material in the Tosefta is richer than the Mishnah and has an original and interesting order of its own.

The first chapter, dealing with the prevention of torts, parallels chapter 2 of the Mishnah (ch. 1 of which is paralleled by the second half of the Tosef., bm 11). Chapter 2:1–14, paralleling the Mishnah 2:1–6, deals with ḥazakah; while 2:14–17, paralleling Mishnah 2:2–8, is a supplement to chapter 1 of the Tosefta. It is probable that the connection between this supplement and the preceding section is *Samuel b. Meir's definition of a Tyrean window (14a) and the prohibition against opening a window facing that of a neighbor (14b). Chapters 3–4, paralleling Mishnah 4:1–5:5, deal with the regulations of selling; 5:1–6:21, paralleling Mishnah 5:6–6:3, deal with commercial honesty; the last part of this section differs from the Mishnah, in that the transition to the following two sections is clearly recognizable. Thus the subject of 6:22–23, paralleling the Mishnah at the end of chapter 6, deviates only slightly from the main discussion on commercial honesty, as it deals with the language used by a seller, a subject covered previously, and the subject of Tosefta 6:24–28 parallels the Mishnah of chapter 7. Chapters 7–10, discussing the halakhot of inheritance, contain a wealth of sources on details not mentioned at all in the parallel Mishnah (ch. 8 and 9). Chapter 11, dealing with deeds, parallels Mishnah chapter 10.

The rabbinic tradition regarding the order and authorship of the books of Scripture is recorded in Bava Batra 14b. The report of the travels of Rabbah bar Bar Ḥana (bb 73–74) contains fantastic descriptions of marvelous creatures and visions of the corpses of the Israelites who left Egypt and died in the wilderness of Sinai.

In the standard printed editions of the Babylonian Talmud more pages are found in this tractate than in any other (bb's last page is numbered 176). However, there are other tractates whose talmudic text is longer (see *Talmud). The size of the Bava Batra volume is due to the fact that the commentary of *Rashi is printed through page 29a only (in the Pesaro edition the termination of the commentary is marked: "Here died Rashi"), and the remainder of the tractate contains the more lengthy commentary of Samuel b. Meir. An English translation of the Talmud was made by I. Epstein (Soncino edition, 1935).


Epstein, Amora'im, 187–270; A. Weiss, Studies in the Law of the Talmud on Damages (1966), 16–25; Ch. Albeck, Shishah Sidrei Mishnah, 4 (1959), 111–6; R. Yaron, Gifts in Contemplation of Death in Jewish and Roman Law (1960); D. Daube, in: Tulane Law Review, 18 (1944), 390–404.

[Shamma Friedman]