Bava Batra, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four



Mishnah four deals with the a person who buys trees in another person’s field and whether or not the buyer has acquired the land on which the trees grow. 


Mishnah Four

1)                     If a man bought two trees in his fellow’s field, he has not bought the ground [in which they grow].

a)                                           Rabbi Meir says:  “He has bought the ground”.

b)                                          When they grow (branches), he (the seller) may not trim them.

c)                                           What comes up from the stem belongs to him (the buyer) but what comes up from the roots belongs to the seller.

d)                                          And if they die, the ground is not his [to replant new trees].

2)                     If he bought three trees, he has bought the ground [between them].

a)                                           When they grow he may trim them,

b)                                          And what comes up whether from the stem or from the roots belongs to him (the buyer).

c)                                           And if they die the ground is his.



Our mishnah begins with a dispute between Rabbi Meir and the Sages.  According to the Sages when a person buys two trees he has not bought the ground they are on, and according to Rabbi Meir he has bought the ground.  The remainder of section one goes according to the Sages.  Section 1b states that if the trees grow branches the seller, who still owns the land, may not trim them.  Although these branches now cover land that he did not sell, and when he sold the tree these branches were not there, by selling the tree he tacitly gives permission to the buyer to let the branches grow.  Section 1c states that anything that grows from the tree above ground belongs to the buyer and anything below ground still belongs to the seller/landowner.  Finally, if the trees die, the buyer may not plant there new trees.  Since he didn’t buy the land, when the trees die he has totally lost his acquisition.

In section two we learn that the laws are different when one acquires three trees.  In that case the person has acquired the land.  If the trees should grown branches that overhang into the seller’s property he may trim them. Anything that grows from the tree, even below the ground, belongs to the buyer.  Furthermore, if the trees die he may plant there new trees.  


Questions for Further Thought:

·                      Why may the seller trim the trees if he sold three to the buyer but not if he sold two?