Bava Batra, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Two

Introduction

Mishnah two mostly discusses discrepancies within a debt document.

Mishnah Two

1)                     A simple document requires two witnesses; a sewn document requires three.

a)                                           If a simple document has only one witness, or a sewn document has only two, they are both invalid.

2)                     If it was written in a debt document:  100 zuz which are 20 sela (=80 zuz), he (the creditor) can claim only 20 sela; if [it was written] 100 zuz which are 30 sela (=120 zuz) he (the creditor) can claim only 100 zuz.

3)                     [If there was written in a debt document] Silver zuzim which are , and the rest was erased, [the creditor can claim] at least two zuzim.

a)                                           [If there was written in a debt document] Silver selas which are , and the rest was erased, [the creditor can claim] at least two selas.

b)                                          [If there was written in a debt document] Darics which are , and the rest was erased, [the creditor can claim] at least two darics.

4)                     If at the top was written a maneh (100 zuz) and at the bottom 200 zuz, or 200 zuz at the top and maneh at the bottom, everything goes according to the bottom amount.

a)                                           If so, why is the figure written at the top of the document?

b)                                          So that, if a letter of the lower figure was erased, they can learn from the upper figure.

Explanation

This mishnah deals with documents which were not done properly or had the amount of the debt partially erased.

Section one:   A simple document must have two witnesses and a sewn document must have three.  If they have fewer than the required amount  the document is invalid.

Section two:  If in a debt document (an IOU) a number was incorrectly converted into another coin (i.e. dollars into cents), the debtor owes the creditor only the lower amount.

Section three:  If a document said that the debtor owed a plural of a certain coin, but the number of the coins owed was erased the creditor can collect only two of the coin.  Since the coin was written in plural (i.e. dollars), we know that the number was more than one.  The minimum that it could have been is two, and this is what the creditor will be able to collect from the debtor.

Section four:  If the number at the bottom of a debt document disagrees with the number at the top, the creditor can collect according to the bottom figure, whether it is higher or lower than the bottom figure.  The assumption is that the writer of the document, the debtor (or a scribe on his behalf) changed his mind after writing the first amount, and his true intention was the second amount.   The mishnah then asks, why do we customarily write the amount on the top and not just on the bottom?  The answer is that the top amount will help if the bottom amount is erased.  If, however both amounts are still clearly written, we follow the bottom one.

Questions for Further Thought:

·                      Sections two and three:  What is the principle that explains why in this case the debtor owes the lower amount (section two) or only two of the coin (section three)?