Retaining its Beauty – Bava Basra 24

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The Mishna says that if the city is first, the tree should be cut down and he will not be reimbursed.

The Gemora asks: Why does the owner of the pit have to reimburse the owner of a tree for the cutting down of his tree, while in our Mishna the owner of the tree is not reimbursed?

Rav Kahana says: This is because a pot belonging to partners is neither hot nor cold. [Rashi explains that it is difficult to collect money from people in the city for the tree, as everyone will say that money should first be collected from others. In the interim, if the tree is allowed to stand, it will affect the beauty of Eretz Yisroel. We therefore rule that the tree must be cut down immediately without payment.]

The Gemora asks: What is the question? Perhaps there is simply a difference between damaging the public and damaging an individual!?

Rather, the Gemora answers: Rav Kahana’s statement was said regarding the second part of the Mishna. The Mishna states: If the tree was first, he must cut it down, but he is reimbursed. One would think he could claim, “First give me the money and then I will cut it down!” [The Mishna implies that he first must cut it down, and only then is he reimbursed.] Rav Kahana says: This is because a pot belonging to partners is neither hot nor cold.

Reb Moshe Feinstein asks: According to the Rishonim who hold that this halachah only applies in Eretz Yisroel, what is the Gemora asking that he should tell them, “First give me the money and then I will cut it down”? It is also incumbent upon him to beautify Eretz Yisroel! Just as they are obligated to give him money for this, he should be obligated to lose money on this account!? Why should he be entitled to cut it down only with the stipulation that he should be reimbursed for it?

Now if the halachah would apply in all lands because it is painful for people to see the ruining of their town, we could understand that he would have a right to claim that the town’s look does not bother him at all. However, the beauty of Eretz Yisroel is not dependent on his personal preference – if so, why should he be allowed to make such a stipulation?

He answers that although they all are obligated to preserve Eretz Yisroel’s beauty, he is not compelled to lose money for this.

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