By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Kesubos 84 – A Quiet Little Alleyway, A Great Lifesaver
With this whole discussion of grabbing going on, this daf has an exciting, busy feel to it. Especially when the Gemara starts discussing actual cases (particularly the last case that continues into tomorrow’s daf). Of course, the whole discussion – at least in terms of when the borrower himself is no longer amongst the living – is only going according to Rabi Tarfon who holds that a creditor can make a tefisah on movable property of the debtor even after the latter has passed and his children are insisting that it’s their rightful inheritance. The Rishonim explain that, although it is clear from the Gemara that we do not pasken like Rabi Tarfon, there are still certain aspects to his shitah that we need to clarify since the Geonim enacted that nowadays creditors can in fact collect even movable property from yesomim for the debts that their father owed.
In any event, even Rabi Tarfon, explains the Gemara, agrees that the creditors cannot make a tefisah on the metaltelin of the children if it is in their reshus already. They can only do so if the metaltelin was located elsewhere, such that we can consider it as though the yesomim did not yet get a full acquisition on those items. The main question, then, becomes what does “elsewhere” include?
According to Rav and Shmuel, elsewhere is limited to an area that is not a place in which one can make acquisitions (in the normal manner of meshicha). Namely, the reshus ha’rabim. But what about a simtah? A simtah is kind of an in-between type of place. It is essentially part of the public marketplace, but, on the other hand, it is set apart. It is like a little alley off to the side where there is very little traffic relative to the main thoroughfare of the reshus ha’rabim. Rashi explains that “people who do business with one another in the marketplace, but want to be able to speak calmly and with full mental composure, move off” to a simtah to be able to do so.
A simtah, Rashi explains further, is a place in which one can effect a kinyan. So how do we view it vis a vis this discussion about a creditor making a tefisah after the debtor has passed on? Rav and Shmuel say nothing doing, it doesn’t work; because it is as if the yesomim have already gotten their full acquisition therein and those items have come into their reshus. However, Rabi Yochanan and Reish Lakish maintain that, according to Rabi Tarfon, a creditor would in fact be able to make a tefisah even in a simtah. Of course, that is only according to Rabi Tarfon, and Reish Lakish would make such grabbers give the items back, because we really pasken like Rabi Akiva that the creditor cannot make any tefisah whatsoever since the rule is, moveable property of the yesomim is not subject to the lien of creditors. Again, once the Geonim enacted that nowadays creditors can collect from metaltelin, that changes a lot of the practical ramifications in the halacha l’maaseh.
What I’d like to stop on for a moment, though, is that description that Rashi gave of the function of a simtah. The marketplace is a busy place. There’s a lot going on over there. That is precisely what makes it what it is, and why people go there for money-making. Opportunities abound. However, the intense busyness of the marketplace also has its drawback. The frenetic pace there can lead people to functioning under too much pressure, feeling rushed and harried. And that, of course, can lead to all sorts of mistakes. Both business and interpersonal.
So, some people – who indeed go to the marketplace because they recognize that that is where the potential lies – make it their business (pardon the pun) to find a quiet, little alley when negotiations begin to get serious. Realizing that making a deal with a calm frame of mind is important, they momentarily remove themselves from all the hustle and bustle.
A successful businessman was telling me about how things work for him in what he does. He explained that contemporary norms have made it that most, or at least a very large chunk, of the business day is spent dealing with emails. Constant communication. Negotiating deals. Investigating opportunities. Putting out “fires” with existing assets as they arise. Prioritizing. It is simply phenomenal to consider the amazing quantity of work that is able to be accomplished in a relatively short span of time.
Just one little example. Not so long ago, if a developer wanted to review the design that the architect planned out for a building complex, the latter would have to bring the physical blueprints to him. If the developer had any corrections or additions to make, the architect would have to go back to the drawing board, print out a new set, and, well, you get the point. Nowadays, though, with a few clicks or swipes, this information can be passed back and forth and revised as needed within a tiny fraction of the amount of time that it once took! And that really is just one little example.
So, yes, modern technology has opened up vast new worlds of opportunity. However, and this is a big however, it comes with a serious price tag. That businessman explained to me that what this has brought about is a situation in which the brain needs to completely and abruptly shift focus from one thing to the next at an incredibly jarring speed. And the collateral damage, he explained, is stress. It just puts an enormous amount of stress on the brain.
Another point of fallout, he elaborated further, is that it tends to cause people to become superficial in what they do. Since I am so focused on always getting to the next thing, I may not take the time to do the b’iyun when necessary. “One of my biggest challenges,” he said, “is to have the willpower to tell myself, ‘Ok, right now there is something on which I need to do some serious b’iyun, and to do that I need to actually turn off my computer’.”
It really is matter of striking the right balance, isn’t it? On the one hand, you want to be part of that fast-paced, global marketplace, because that is where opportunity lies. But, on the other hand, you don’t want to become so rushed and harried that your work quality suffers. Or your relationships.
The truth is, some people don’t ever fully engage in the great current of the sea of money-making. Although they work and are certainly interested in and concerned by financial matters, they nonetheless maintain a certain distance. To an extent, they are kind of removed from it. Now, because of that, they may never make it “big”. After all, they never took the plunge into the deep end. People like that may very well feel that they are missing out. And it could be that they are. The real question that a person needs to ask himself, though – wherever it is on the spectrum that he finds himself – is “what is it all really about in the final analysis?”
Although western society has practically indoctrinated us into feeling that success is all about the “American Dream”, we all sense, deep down, that it is a fallacy. Because what is a successful life, at the end of the day? It isn’t the biggest bank account. Real happiness is what one experiences when he feels a sense of significant accomplishment. When what you do is a part of how you are growing as a person and making your contribution to the world, then it becomes a source of great satisfaction. But when the frenetic chase after material gains starts to control you, it just doesn’t feel good. It is stressful. It harms your work ethic. And it can wreak havoc in your relationships. With people and with Hashem. So if you are one of those who forgoes a certain degree of opportunity in order to keep a healthy distance, consider yourself lucky. Because by doing that you are cashing on a much bigger opportunity.
And those of us who do find ourselves deeply, perhaps inextricably, enmeshed in the great Race of Doing have at our disposal a very potent tool to help us maintain our sanity: the simtah. There is always that quiet corner off to the side to which we can escape from time to time in order to regain our composure. Whether it is because there is something that really requires our full attention for more than just a few seconds to do it right, one of the significant others in our life who needs us to be there for them right now, or just to catch our breath and restore our equilibrium, the simtah is there to afford us that ability. It is a paradigm, in this context, more than any particular place. A paradigm that invests us with the strength to say, “Right now, I need to step off to the side for a bit because there is something that needs my full, undivided attention.”
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensivechazara questions (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org.