Bava Batra, Chapter Two, Mishnah Thirteen



We learned yesterday in mishnah twelve that if another person’s trees encroach on one’s property one may cut out the roots, up to a certain depth.  In mishnah thirteen we learn that if another person’s branches encroach on one’s property they may also be removed.


Mishnah Thirteen

1)                     If a tree stretches into another’s field, he may cut it away as far as is reached by an ox-goad held over the plough, or, if it is a carob or sycamore, [he may cut it away] according to the plumb line’s measure.

2)                     All trees that stretch over irrigated fields may be cut away according to the plumb line’s measure.

3)                     Abba Shaul says:  “All trees that bear no fruit may be cut away according to the plumb line’s measure.”



In this mishnah we encounter two different ways in which a person may cut off the branches of a tree that encroaches on his property.  In section one we learn that in general a person can cut them as high as is reached by the “ox-goad held over the plough”.  An ox-goad is the whip which a person riding a plough pulled by oxen would use to goad the oxen.  If the branches were to interfere with the ox-goad one would have trouble plowing his field.  Therefore, up until this height one can always remove the branches.  The other measure for cutting down trees is the plumb line, which would go straight up from the end of his property.  In other words, any branches hanging over his property may be cut down.  One can cut away according to the measure of the plumb line in the following situations:  1)  a carob or sycamore’s tree, whose branches are thick and will provide too much shade for the field over which they hang.  2)  Any tree that stretches over an irrigated field, which needs a lot of irrigation.  A tree from another field blocking its access to rain will cause much damage to this type of field.  According to Abba Shaul one may always cut away up until the plumb line.


Questions for Further Thought:

·                      What is the basis for the dispute between Abba Shaul and the anonymous opinion?