Bava Batra, Chapter One, Mishnah Five
Mishnah five deals with the obligation of a person who shares a courtyard with another to help in building certain parts of the courtyard. The second half of the mishnah deals with the obligations that residents of a town have to participate in the costs of building the public structures in the town.
1) They compel [a partner in a courtyard to contribute to] the building of a gate-house and a door for the courtyard.
a) Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says: Not all courtyards are fit for a gate-house.
2) They compel [a resident of the town to contribute to] the building of a wall for the town and double doors and a bolt.
a) Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says: Not every town is fit for a wall.
3) How long must a man dwell in a town to count as one of the men of the town?
a) Twelve months.
b) If he has purchased a dwelling place he immediately counts as one of the men of the town.
Section one teaches that a person who holds joint possession of a courtyard can be compelled to share in the costs of building a gate-house (where a guard would sit and protect the homes attached to the courtyard) and a door. Since these are necessities of a courtyard, one must participate in their cost. Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel points out that not all courtyards need a gate-house. Assumedly smaller courtyards can be protected without building a gate-house. Therefore, a person would be obligated to help pay for building a gate-house only as long as the courtyard was fit for one.
Section two discusses similar laws with regards to people who live in a town. Just as in modern society people pay taxes in order to pay for the building and upkeep of town property, so too in the times of the Mishnah people had to jointly pay for the building of a wall, double-doors and a bolt to help protect the town. Again Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel points out that not all towns are fit for walls. If the town was not a one which would usually have a wall, the residents are not obligated to share in its costs.
Finally, section three discusses how long a person must dwell in the town in order to be an official resident and thereby be obligated to pay for building its wall. There are two criteria. First of all, if he dwells in the town for twelve months he is obligated to pay. Second, if he purchases property in the town, he is immediately obligated, even if he doesnt dwell there.
Questions for Further Thought:
· Do you imagine that there are other things that a resident of a town must help build (such as a bathhouse, a road or a synagogue)? If so why are they not listed in this mishnah?
· Why should a person who purchases property in a town be obligated to pay for building a wall if he doesnt even live there?