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Steinsaltz

Herod placed a garland made of porcupine hide on Bava ben Buta’s head, which pricked his eyes out. One day Herod came and sat before him without identifying himself in order to test him. He, Herod, said: See, Master, what this evil slave Herod is doing. Bava ben Buta said to him: What should I do to him? Herod said to him: The Master should curse him. Bava ben Buta said to him: But it is written: “Do not curse the king, not even in your thoughts” (Ecclesiastes 10:20). Herod said to him: He is not a king, since he rules illegally. Bava ben Buta said to him: And even if he were merely a rich man I would not curse him, as it is written: “And do not curse a rich person in your bedchamber” (Ecclesiastes 10:20). And even were he only a leader I would not curse him, as it is written: “And you shall not curse a leader among your people” (Exodus 22:27).

Herod said to him: That halakha stated with regard to “a leader among your people,” that is, to a fit Jew who acts as a member of your people, i.e., in accordance with Torah law, and this one does not do the deeds of your people. Bava ben Buta said to him: Nevertheless, I am afraid of him. Herod said to him: There is nobody who will go and tell him, since you and I are sitting here alone. Bava ben Buta said to him: Nevertheless, it is written: “For a bird of the sky shall carry the sound, and that which has wings shall tell the matter” (Ecclesiastes 10:20).

Herod said to him: I am he. Had I known that the Sages were so cautious I would not have killed them. Now, what is that man’s remedy, i.e., what can I do to repent for my sinful actions? Bava ben Buta said to him: He who extinguished the light of the world by killing the Torah Sages, as it is written: “For the mitzva is a lamp, and the Torah is light” (Proverbs 6:23), should go and occupy himself with the light of the world, the Temple, as it is written with regard to the Temple: “And all the nations shall flow [venaharu] unto it” (Isaiah 2:2), the word venaharu alluding to light [nehora]. There are those who say that this is what he said to him: He who blinded the eye of the world, as it is written in reference to the Sages: “And if it be committed through ignorance by the eyes of the congregation” (Numbers 15:24), should go and occupy himself with the eye of the world, the Temple, as it is written: “I will desecrate my Temple, the pride of your strength, the delight of your eyes” (Ezekiel 24:21).

Herod said to him: I am afraid of the Roman government, that they will not permit me to make changes in the Temple. Bava ben Buta said to him: Send a messenger who will travel there for a year, and remain there for another year, and take yet another year to return. In the meantime, you can demolish the Temple and rebuild it. He did so. Eventually, they sent a message to Herod from Rome: If you have not yet demolished it, do not demolish it; and if you have already demolished it, do not rebuild it; and if you have demolished it and already rebuilt it, you shall be counted among those who act wickedly, seeking counsel only after they have already acted. Even if you are armed and in command of a military force, your book, i.e., your genealogical record, is here. You are neither a king [reikha] nor the son of a king, but rather Herod the slave who has made himself a freeman [kelonya].

The Gemara explains: What is the meaning of the word reikha? It denotes royalty, as it is written: “I am today a tender [rakh] and anointed king” (II Samuel 3:39). And if you wish, say that the meaning of the word is learned from here, from the term describing Joseph after he was appointed viceroy to the king: “And they cried before him, Avrekh (Genesis 41:43).

The Sages say: One who has not seen Herod’s building has never seen a beautiful building in his life. The Gemara asks: With what did he build it? Rabba said: With stones of white and green marble [umarmara]. There are those who say that he built it with stones of blue, white, and green marble. Alternate rows of stones sent out an edge a bit and drew in an edge a bit, so that they would better receive and hold the plaster. He considered covering it with gold, but the Rabbis said to him: Leave it, and do not cover it, since it is more beautiful this way, as it looks like the waves of the sea.

The Gemara asks: And how did Bava ben Buta do this, i.e., give advice to Herod the wicked? But doesn’t Rav Yehuda say that Rav says, and some say it was Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi who says: For what reason was Daniel punished? Because he offered advice to Nebuchadnezzar, as after sharing a harsh prophecy with him, it is stated: “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you, redeem your sins with charity and your iniquities with graciousness to the poor, that there may be a lengthening of your prosperity” (Daniel 4:24). And it is written: “All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar” (Daniel 4:25). And it is written: “And at the end of twelve months” (Daniel 4:26). Only after a year was the prophecy fulfilled but not before that, apparently because Nebuchadnezzar heeded Daniel’s advice.

The Gemara answers: If you wish, say that a slave like Herod is different since he is obligated in the mitzvot, and therefore Bava ben Buta had to help him repent. And if you wish, say the Temple is different, as without the help of the government it would not have been built.

The Gemara asks: And from where do we derive that Daniel was punished? If we say we know this because it is written: “And Esther called for Hatach, one of the king’s chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her” (Esther 4:5), and Rav said: Hatach is Daniel. This works out well according to the one who says Daniel was called Hatach because they cut him down [ḥatakh] from his greatness and turned him into a minor attendant. But according to the one who says he was called Hatach because all governmental matters were determined [ḥatakh] according to his word, what is there to say? What punishment did he receive? The Gemara answers: His punishment was that they threw him into the den of lions.

§ The mishna teaches: In a place where it is customary to build a wall of non-chiseled stone, or chiseled stone, or small bricks, or large bricks, they must build the partition with that material. Everything is in accordance with the regional custom. The Gemara asks: What does the word everything serve to add? The Gemara answers: It serves to add a place where it is customary to build a partition out of palm and laurel branches. In such a place, the partition is built from those materials.

The mishna teaches: Therefore, if the wall later falls, the assumption is that the space where the wall stood and the stones belong to both of them, to be divided equally. The Gemara questions the need for this ruling: Isn’t it obvious that this is the case, since both neighbors participated in the construction of the wall? The Gemara answers: No, it is necessary to teach this halakha for a case where the entire wall fell into the domain of one of them. Alternatively, it is necessary in a case where one of them already cleared all the stones into his own domain. Lest you say that the other party should be governed by the principle that the burden of proof rests upon the claimant, that is, if the other party should have to prove that he had been a partner in the construction of the wall, the mishna teaches us that they are presumed to have been partners in the building of the wall, and neither requires further proof.

§ The mishna continues: And similarly with regard to a garden, in a place where it is customary to build a partition in the middle of a garden jointly owned by two people, and one of them wishes to build such a partition, the court obligates his neighbor to join in building the partition. The Gemara comments: This matter itself is difficult. On the one hand, you said: And similarly with regard to a garden, in a place where it is customary to build a partition in the middle of a garden jointly owned by two people, and one of them wishes to build such a partition, the court obligates his neighbor to join in building the partition. One can infer that ordinarily, where there is no custom, the court does not obligate him to build a partition.

But say the latter clause of the mishna: But with regard to an expanse of fields, in a place where it is customary not to build a partition between two people’s fields, and one person wishes to build a partition between his field and that of his neighbor, the court does not obligate his neighbor to build such a partition. One can infer that ordinarily, where there is no custom, the court obligates him to build a partition. The Gemara explains the difficulty: Now that you said by inference that in an ordinary garden the court does not obligate him to build a partition, is it necessary to say that the court does not obligate him to build a partition in an ordinary field? Clearly in a field there is less of a need for a partition, as there is less damage caused by exposure to the gaze of others.

Abaye said that this is what the tanna is saying: And similarly with regard to an ordinary garden, and also in a place where it is customary to build a partition in an expanse of fields, the court obligates him to build a partition. Rava said to him: If so, what is the point of the word: But, mentioned afterward in connection with an expanse of fields, which seems to indicate that the issue of fields had not yet been addressed? Rather, Rava said that this is what the tanna is teaching: And similarly an ordinary garden is treated like a place where it is customary to build a partition, and therefore the court obligates him to build a partition. But an ordinary expanse of fields is treated like a place where it is customary not to build a partition, and therefore the court does not obligate him to build one.

§ The mishna teaches: Rather, if one person wishes to erect a partition, he must withdraw into his own field and build the partition there. And he makes a border mark on the outer side of the barrier facing his neighbor’s property, indicating that he built the entire structure of his own materials and on his own land. The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of a border mark? Rav Huna said: He bends the edge of the wall toward the outside. The Gemara suggests: Let him make it on the inside. The Gemara explains: In that case, his neighbor might also make a mark on the outside, that is, on the side facing his own property, and say: The wall is both mine and his. The Gemara responds: If so, that is, there is a concern about such deception, now also when the person who builds the wall makes a border mark on the outer side of the wall, his neighbor might cut it off and say: The wall is both mine and his. The Gemara answers: Such a cut is noticeable and the deception will not work.

There are those who say that in answer to the question: What is the meaning of a border mark, Rav Huna said: He bends the edge of the wall toward the inside. The Gemara suggests: Let him make it on the outside. The Gemara explains: In that case, his neighbor might cut it off and say: The wall is both mine and his. The Gemara asks: If so, that is, there is a concern for such deception, now also when the person who builds the wall makes a border mark toward the inside, his neighbor might add a border mark on his own side and say: The wall is both mine and his. The Gemara answers: An addition is noticeable and the deception will not work. The Gemara asks: But doesn’t the mishna teach that he makes the border mark on the outside and not on the inside? The Gemara comments: This is a difficulty.

Rabbi Yoḥanan said:

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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