Bava Batra, Chapter One, Mishnah One

 

Introduction

The first mishnah of Bava Batra deal with neighbors who share a courtyard.  The mishnah is concerned with the building of a wall to separate the neighbors and with the ability of one neighbor to force the other neighbor to share the costs of building the wall.

 

Mishnah One

1)                     If two partners wish to make a partition in a courtyard they build the wall in the middle.

2)                     In a place where the custom is to build of unshaped stones, or of hewn stones, or of half-bricks, or of whole bricks, so they should build it—everything is according to local custom.

a)                                           [If the wall is made of] unshaped stones this one supplies [from his property] three handbreadths, and this one supplies [from his property] three handbreadths.

b)                                          [If the wall is made of] hewn stones this one supplies [from his property] one and a half handbreadths, and this one supplies [from his property] one and a half handbreadths.

c)                                           [If the wall is made of] half-bricks this one supplies [from his property] two handbreadths, and this one supplies [from his property] two handbreadths.

d)                                          [If the wall is made of] whole bricks this one supplies [from his property] one and a half handbreadths, and this one supplies [from his property] one and a half handbreadths.

 

Explanation

In the time of the mishnah most homes did not have openings to the street but rather would open onto a common courtyard.  The courtyard was used for all sorts of purposes and was the common property of the owners of the houses surrounding it.  Our mishnah states that if the two partners wish to build a wall separating the courtyard they should build the wall in the middle and when they do, they should build the wall with the materials customary used in their place.  There are four kinds of building materials mentioned in the mishnah, and the mishnah lists each one.

Clauses 2a through 2d all state how much of a person’s property he should allocate for the thickness of the wall.  This space will depend on the thickness of the building materials.  Unshaped stones are (on average) 6 handbreadths wide and therefore each partner must allocate three handbreadths of his property for the building of the wall.  Hewn stones are only 3 handbreadths wide and therefore each partner allocates one and a half handbreadths.  A whole brick is 3 handbreadths wide, and therefore each partner allocates one and a half handbreadths.  Half bricks are one and half handbreadths wide.  In order to make a wall with them they would use two half-bricks, placing mortar in between the two.  The total width of the wall would be four handbreadths, and therefore each partner would allocate two handbreadths.

 

 

Questions for Further Thought:

·                      Mishnah one:  If one partner wished to build with half-bricks and one partner with whole bricks, and the custom of the land was to use hewn stone, what type of wall should they build?

·                      What laws in modern society are similar to these types of laws?  How are they different?

 

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