Bava Batra, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four

 

Introduction

Mishnah four discusses how far a person must distance his wall from his neighbor’s walls.

Mishnah Four

1)                     If one’s wall was adjacent to his friend’s wall he may not build another wall adjoining it unless it is at a distance of four cubits.

2)                     And [if he builds a wall opposite his friend’s] windows, whether it is higher or lower than them or level with them, it may not be within four cubits.

 

Explanation

Section one:  If a person already owns a wall adjacent to his friend’s wall, he may wish to add another wall, thereby creating a three walled structure.  If he wishes to do that he must leave four cubits between the new wall and his friend’s wall in order that people will walk near his friend’s wall.  It was believed that people walking near a wall would strengthen the foundations of the wall.  If he didn’t leave enough room next to his friend’s wall people would not walk there, thereby depriving his friend of that benefit.

Section two:  If a person wishes to build a wall opposite another person’s windows he must fulfill three conditions:

1)                  If the wall is higher than the window it must be more than four cubits higher so that he will not be able to use his wall to look into his friend’s window.

2)                  If the wall is lower than the window it must be more than four cubits lower so that he will not be able to stand on the wall and look into the window.

3)                  If it is across, it must be four cubits away so that it will not block the light going into the other window.

 

Questions for Further Thought:

·                      Why is the mishnah so concerned with people looking into other people’s windows?  What does this teach us about privacy?

 

 

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