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Steinsaltz

And the men of pitch [benei kufera], i.e., sailors, are accustomed to paying rent at the time of pulling and paying for damage at the time of breakage. The Gemara asks: Is that to say that this matter depends on custom? Is there no halakha with regard to this issue? The Gemara answers: Because the baraita taught this, it is an acceptable custom and therefore permitted.

§ Rav Anan says that Shmuel says: It is permitted to lend with interest money belonging to orphans. Since the orphans are minors and exempt from mitzvot, the prohibition against taking interest does not apply to them. Rav Naḥman said to him: Because they are orphans we may feed them prohibited items? In harsher language, he added: Orphans that consume that which is not theirs will follow their deceased parent to the graveyard. It cannot be that this was Shmuel’s intention. Therefore, Rav Naḥman said to Rav Anan: Say to me now, what was the actual incident? What exactly did you hear Shmuel say?

Rav Anan said to him: There was a certain kettle that belonged to the children of Mar Ukva, who were minor orphans, and this kettle was in the house of Mar Shmuel, who would rent it out on behalf of the orphans. Mar Shmuel would weigh it and then give it out, and when the renter returned it Mar Shmuel would weigh it and take it back, and he would take a rental fee for use of the kettle and would also take payment for depreciation of the kettle due to the reduction in the weight of the metal. In general, the halakha is that if he takes a rental fee, he should not take payment for depreciation, and if he takes payment for depreciation, this means the kettle was a loan, and therefore he should not take a rental fee, as by taking both, it is interest. Nevertheless, Mar Shmuel did so with the kettle belonging to Mar Ukva’s children, which means he rendered it permitted for the orphans to take interest.

Rav Naḥman said to him: There is no proof from a case like this, as even for bearded ones, i.e., adults, it is permitted to act in this manner, as the owners accept upon themselves the depreciation of the copper, as the more the copper is burned, the more the value of the pot is diminished. Since this is so, the renters pay for the visible depreciation as measured by the reduction in the weight of the vessel, and therefore this arrangement is certainly permitted.

Rabba bar Sheila says that Rav Ḥisda says, and some say that Rabba bar Yosef bar Ḥama says that Rav Sheshet says: It is permitted to lend the money of orphans to be invested in a business venture that is close to profit and far from loss. Since this is only a hint of interest (see 64b), the relevant prohibition is a matter of rabbinic law, and the Sages rendered it permitted in the case of minor orphans, in order that their inheritance be preserved for them.

The Sages taught: If there is a joint venture in which the conditions for the investor are close to profit and far from loss, then the investor is a wicked person, as this is similar to a loan with interest. If the conditions for the investor are close to loss and far from profit, then he is a pious person, as he accepts additional restrictions upon himself in order to be absolutely sure he is not taking interest. If it is close to this and to that or far from this and from that, this is the quality of every person who acts in accordance with halakha.

Rabba said to Rav Yosef: When we are entrusted with this money belonging to orphans, what do we do with it? What is the halakhically appropriate way to manage these funds on behalf of the orphans so that they do not squander or lose their inheritance? Rav Yosef said to him: We set up a special court that holds the money for them, and we instruct the court to give it to them dinar by dinar, according to their needs. Rabba said to him: But if the estate is managed in that manner, the principal, meaning the estate itself, will be depleted, and therefore the court will not be acting as suitable guardians for the orphans, as they will not be properly administering their estate.

Rav Yosef said to him: What does the Master do in such a case? Rabba said to him: We look for a man who has scraps of gold, and we purchase the gold from him and then we give it back to him in a joint business venture with terms that are close to profit and far from loss. The Gemara explains what Rabba says: We specifically buy scraps of gold, but we do not buy a specific item, meaning a finished gold item, as perhaps it is a deposit in the possession of the one holding it and the owner will come and provide distinguishing marks and take it, and then the orphans will suffer a loss.

Rav Ashi said: This works out well if a man is found who has scraps of gold. But if no man is found who has scraps of gold, shall the money of the orphans be depleted? There is a possibility that the extra precaution taken to avoid the appearance of interest may lead to a loss for the orphans. Rather, Rav Ashi said: We look for a man whose properties are quiet, meaning that there is no claim disputing his ownership of them, and who is a trustworthy individual who listens to and obeys the laws of the Torah and is not subject to excommunication by the Sages, meaning that he is known as one who obeys the court’s instructions willingly without having to be coerced, and we give him this money in court as a joint business venture with terms that are close to profit and far from loss, and in this way the orphans’ money can be invested in a safe and profitable manner.

Talmud - Bavli - The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren No=C3=A9 Talmud
with commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Israel (CC-BY-NC 4.0)
אדם סלומון
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