Honestly, Miraculously: Parashas Chayei Sarah

 Taste of Parasha

“He removed the bindings from the camels” (Genesis 24:32).  Who removed which bindings?  According to Rashi, Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, removed the muzzles of his camels.  The camels had muzzles on them in order to stop them from grazing in others fields.  The Ramban disagrees.  The Talmud in tractate Chulin (7b) tells us about the miraculous way in which the donkey of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair would not eat any grain that did not belong to R’ Pinchas even without being muzzled.   Could it be, asks the Ramban, that Avraham Avinu did not merit such miracles with his camels?  Therefore, the Ramban says the camels of Avraham did not have muzzles!  It was actually saddles that were removed; and, it was Lavan, who came from the family of Avraham, who removed them.  He was helping his guest by taking care of the camels.   The Re’eim defends Rashi’s opinion.  He explains that in a place where the preponderance of grain was not their own they could not rely on a miracle.

Taste of Talmud and Halacha

The Talmud in Tractate Bava Metzia (21b) discusses the case of objects that were washed away by a raging sea (i.e. hurricane Sandy). There is a consensus between all of the Ammoraim that when an owner watches his objects being swept away by such a severe storm that he does not expect to get them back.  This is true even if the objects have identification on them.  The terminology that is used is, “Rachmana Sharya,” The Merciful One (in His Torah) permits it.  Where is this idea conveyed in the Torah? The Torah says that a lost object must be returned.  The terminology used is when a lost object is lost, “Mi’menu” (from him)… you must return it to your friend (the owner).  Why is it necessary to add the word Mi’ menu?  From here the Talmud derives that a lost object only needs to be returned if it is lost in a manner that it is likely to be found by others.  If it is lost in a manner that it is inaccessible to all, such as when it is swept away to sea, you do not need to return it to its owner (even if you happen to come across it). What is the Halacha if someone finds an object of minimal value without any identifiable features?  There is one opinion in the Gemara (Rava) that the object in this scenario is also permitted to be kept by the finder. The Ritva compares this case to the case of the raging sea because here too there is no way for the owner to recover it.  The question is: In this case, the object is accessible to others; so, why would the finder be allowed to keep it?  Rabbi Shimon Shkopp explains this opinion by saying that the Sages realized that items of minimal value without a sign are abandoned by their owners.  The owners are happy to have someone else derive benefit from them.  We do not follow this opinion.  We follow the opinion of Abayei that unless we know that the owner relinquished his ownership from an object knowingly, you may not derive benefit from an object that is not yours.

This week’s issue is dedicated as a merit for all those who have suffered losses due to Hurricane Sandy.

Click here to read an article about the “Great Needs in Far-Rockaway”.

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About tasteofyeshiva

RABBI YAIR FRIEDMAN teaches in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in YES and is the president of Visionary Reading. He was a Rebbi at The Torah School of Greater Washington, and a founding member of the Greater Washington Community Kollel and the owner of Camp Gevaldig LLC.
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