Bava Batra, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven

 

Introduction

Mishnayoth seven discusses things a person builds on his property that might damage other people’s property in an indirect manner.  Specifically it deals with a person building a window or door which would allow him to see into another’s property. This and the following mishnah are not related to the subject of the chapter.  Rather they relate to the subject of the second chapter.

 

Mishnah Seven

1)                     One may not make a window to open into a jointly held courtyard.

2)                     If he bought a house in another [and adjoining] courtyard he may not open it into a jointly held courtyard.

3)                     If he built an upper room over his house he may not make it open into the jointly held courtyard;

a)                                           But, if he wishes, he may build another room within his house or build an upper room over his house and make it open into his own house.

4)                     In a jointly held courtyard a man may not build a door directly opposite another’s door, or a window directly opposite another’s window.

a)                                           If the window was small he may not make it larger; if it was a single window he may not make it into two.

5)                     But in the public domain he may open a door opposite another’s door, or a window opposite another’s window.

a)                                           If the window was small he may make it larger; if it was a single window he may make it into two.

 

Explanation

In order to understand our mishnah we must remember that in the times of the Mishnah houses were built around a common courtyard.  A person would have joint ownership of that courtyard with the other house owners whose homes also opened into the courtyard (see the diagram below).

Section one:  A person should not open a window in his home which would look into the jointly held courtyard.  The mishnah wishes to prevent the situation where other people could see into a person’s home.

Section two:  If Reuven owned a house and held joint ownership over courtyard a and then bought a house that opened to courtyard b but was also adjacent to courtyard a, Reuven may not open the new house to courtyard a.  The problem is that by opening a new house to the courtyard he will increase the number of people participating in that courtyard.  In such a case the neighbors who share courtyard a may protest.

Neighbors

Courtyard a

Reuven’s current house

Reuven’s new house

Neighbors

Courtyard b

Neighbors

Courtyard a

courtyard a

potential opening

 

Neighbors

Courtyard b

courtyard b

Neighbors

Courtyard a

Neighbors

Courtyard a

Neighbors

Courtyard b

Neighbors

Courtyard b

 

Section three:  For similar reasons to those mentioned in section two, a person may not make a second floor in his home and make it open into the courtyard.  If he were to rent this second floor to another family he would increase the number of people participating in the courtyard.  He may, however, divide his house and add a room or build a second floor and have it open into his own house.  Although this too will increase the number of residents, since a person could in theory rent out his house to as many residents as he wishes he can also add more rooms to his house, so long as he doesn’t make a new opening to the courtyard.

Section four:  Here we learn that a person may not build a door or window opening into a jointly held courtyard, if that window or door will allow people to look from one house into the other through the courtyard.  He also may not expand the window by making it larger or by turning one window into two.

Section five:  A person may however make a window in his home that is opposite a window in a house on the other side of the public domain.  Since the other person in any case had to be careful from people in the public domain peeping in, a window from a private home does not create further damage.

 

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