May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.
This week we learned Bava Batra 165 and 167. These are some highlights.
Bava Batra 165: He wrote a number on the check but a different amount in the sentence of the check. How much must be paid?
Reuven is a poor man. He collects charity. He comes to Shimon. Shimon gives him a check. The number in the box of the check states that the amount is for 300 shekel. However, on the line of the check, Shimon wrote that he is giving 3,000 shekel. Reuven brings the check to the bank. The clerks notice the discrepancy. They call Shimon. “How much money did you intend to give, 300 shekel or 3,000 shekel?” Shimon answers, “I do not remember. Call a rabbi. I will do whatever he says.” What is the halacha? How much should the bank give to Reuven?
Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein argues that based on our Gemara, Reuven should get 3,000 shekel. Our Mishnah teaches that in a document we follow the later clause. If a document began with Yehuda owing 100 and at the end it states that Yehuda owes 200, the court will make Yehuda pay 200. We assume that they changed their mind as they were writing the contract. The later information is therefore assumed to be the conclusion. The end is binding. In addition, in our case, it is reasonable to assume that Shimon intended to give 3,000 and when writing the numbers forgot to add a zero, so he wrote 300 instead of 3,000. It is less likely that he always intended to give 300 but wrote the wrong word. If he intended to give three hundred, how did he end up writing the words three thousand? Thousand is very different from hundred. Finally, this is a question about charity. Normally, when we are in a state of doubt about monetary obligations we say hamotzi me’chavero alav hara’aya, the one who is seeking to extract from his friend must prove his case. However, in charity, when in doubt we are to be strict. Charity is based on a vow. When unsure if a vow was made we must be strict and act as if it was made. Gemara Menachot (104) teaches that if a person made a consecration to the Temple trust and he does not remember how much he promised, he must give until he is sure he did not promise more. Similarly, we should rule the same way here. Shimon made a promise. He himself is open to the possibility that he may have promised a lot. The bank should give the poor man the full 3,000. (Chashukei Chemed)
Bava Batra 167: How Gemara Knowledge Helped Rav Elyashiv, zt”l, Solve a Mystery
A Torah scholar approached Rav Elyashiv, zt”l. He was in terrible distress. “Rebbe, my neighbor has demanded of me to return to him 10,000 shekels he claims I borrowed from him. I am sure I never borrowed money from him. Somehow, he produced a piece of paper, with my signature, in which it says that I admit that I borrowed 10,000 shekel from him. The note states that I was supposed to repay the funds a month ago. I do not understand how this can all be. It is my signature. But, I never borrowed money from him. Do I need to pay?”
Rav Elyashiv asked the man some questions.
“Do you have an extensive library of holy books in your home? Do you write your name on the first page in each book? Do you ever lend books to the neighbor who is now accusing you of owing him money? Do you always write your name at the top of the page?”
The man responded that he did have an extensive library. He would lend books to his neighbor. His name was on the first page of each book. He was not particular to write his name at the top of the page. Sometimes, he would write his name in the middle or toward the bottom of the page.
Rav Elyashiv told him to start to look through the books that he remembered lending to the neighbor. The man looked through the books. He found a book with the front page torn out. He reported his findings to the rav. The rav told him that the neighbor had likely torn out the page, added words atop his signature, and falsely presented it as a note of obligation. The man confronted the neighbor. The neighbor confessed. He had falsified the page into a note of obligation. It had all transpired as Rav Elyashiv, zt”l, had surmised.
Rav Elyashiv’s source was our Gemara. Bava Batra 167 has the advice of Abaye. Abaye taught that if you want to leave the court with a sample of your signature do not write it at the bottom of an empty piece of parchment. An unscrupulous man might get his hands on the parchment. He might then write that you owe him money. He will present the note as your statement of obligation to him. There was a tax collector who asked Abaye for his signature so he would be able to exempt Abaye’s students from taxes if they had a slip from Abaye with his signature. Abaye obliged the request. The man tried to get Abaye to sign the bottom of an empty parchment. Abaye refused. He signed the top of the parchment. He told the tax collector, “The Sages already told us to fear fraud when a signature is at the bottom of a parchment.” Rav Elyashiv, zt”l, knew this Gemara well. When he heard the rabbi’s lament, he thought of our lesson. He therefore suggested that perhaps the neighbor had gotten his hands on a page that bore the rabbi’s signature at the middle or bottom, with empty space above it. Talmudic expertise can help solve financial fraud. (Ateh Lemashal)
By Rabbi Zev Reichman
Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.