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(5749) Siyum tractate Shviis: "Mishnah 9. "whoever fulfills his bare word, the Sages are well pleased with him."

And the debate between R'Yochanan and Rav in the Talmud (Talmud Yerushalmi ibid) if one must keep his word even regarding gifts.

Resolution of the contradiction regarding the conduct of Rav (Talmud Yerushalmi ibid and Talmud Yerushalmi Bava Metziah 4:2).

The connection to the essential subject of "Sheviis" according to Drush (homily)  



1. We learn at the conclusion of Tractate Shvi’it (Mishnah 9):

“Property can be acquired by the act of drawing them (Note: into the possession of the purchaser. This is termed ‘Meshicha’) but whosoever fulfills his word, the Sages are well pleased with him”.

In other words, even though from the letter of the law, the seller can renege from the sale, since the purchaser has not yet acquired the object via Meshicha, nevertheless, if he does not renege, but rather keeps his word, then the Sages are pleased with him.

The Talmud Yerushalmi ibid, cites a dispute between Rav Yochanan and Rav:

  • According to the view of Rav Yochanan – “If he said to give a gift to his friend and he wanted to retract, he can retract”.
  • And Rav disagrees, for Rav says “When I say to a member of my household to give a gift to someone, I do not retract”. In other words he fulfills his word to give the gift.

In the continuation of the section, the Yerushalmi questions this from an occurrence of Rav:

“One person deposited a guarantee for a certain thing (he had made a sale with someone for salt, and he gave a deposit for the sale). In the interim, the price of salt increased, (and the seller wanted to retract). They came before Rav (to judge the dispute). He said to them “either give him a quantity of salt equivalent in value to the money of the deposit that you received or (if he does not want the sale) give him back what he paid” (for with the small amount that he accepted, he was obligated to receive what he had paid for).

We thus see that Rav‘s views are not in accordance.

  • There, in that case, he said “When I say to a member of my household to give a gift to someone, I do not retract” (in other words, the person deserves the item, even by just mentioning that he will give it).
  • Yet here, he says the opposite (namely that even a seller that receives a deposit for the partial amount, is able to retract)

And they answer:

“There, it is a matter of law, yet when Rav acted personally, it is according to “piety” (Middat Chassidut).

(In other words, in the case of the salt, since it was a matter of law, he ruled so. Yet Rav’s personal actions were according to the dictates of piety – for even though the recipient did not merit it according to law, nevertheless, Rave acted beyond the letter of the law (לפנים משוה״ד), and he accustomed himself with piety (Middat Chassidut).

The commentators question this from another occurrence involving Rav (and it is cited in the Talmud Yerushalmi, tractate Bava Metzia):

“Rav instructed his servant (לשמשי׳): “When I say to you to give a gift to a person, if the recipient is poor, give it to him immediately, and if the recipient is a wealthy person, ask me a second time”

(In other words, Rav instructed his servant: “When I say to you to give a gift to a poor person, give it to him immediately, and do not question me further, for I am not able to retract. Yet if the recipient is a wealthy person, ask me a second time, to ascertain that I have not retracted my decision”)

Therefore, we see a contradiction in the personal acts of Rav himself:

  • For here (at the conclusion of tractate Shvi’it) it says clearly that Rav conducted himself with piety and does not retract on his word.
  • Whereas in Bava Metzia there, he instructed his servant not to rely on his word, and not to give the gift until he asked him a second time – the very opposite of the conduct of not changing one’s word.

2. The commentators offer many explanations of the matter:

  1. The difference between the two conducts, is because one case is dealing with a small gift, whereas the second case is dealing with a large gift

(Like the Talmud Bavli differentiates in Bava Metzia, according to the view of Rav Yochanan who holds that the “reneging on a verbal commitment constitutes an act of bad faith” (דברים יש בהם משום מחוסרי אמנה) is only when it involves a small gift, for then the recipient relies on it. Whereas with a large gift, there is no bad faith, for the recipient does not rely on it) (דלא סמכה דעתי׳).

In other words in the case in tractate Shvi’it, it is speaking of a small gift, and in that situation he acted according to Middat Chassidut and did not retract. And also there (in Talmud Yerushalmi tractate Bava Metzia) regarding the gift to the poor person. For in general, a gift to a poor person is a small gift. However “if the recipient is a wealthy person, ask me a second time”. For since one gives a large gift to a wealthy person, he did not accustom himself stringently, to even act according to Middat Chassidut (like Rav Yochanan who was stringent with speech alone, yet nevertheless held that there is no “bad faith”, if he retracts).

  1. In the Talmud Yerushalmi tractate Bava Metzia there, it is dealing with the aspect of the time of the giving, and the issue is whether one is allowed to delay the giving until a later period.

And the difference between a poor and wealthy person is that a statement to a poor person, which is in the realm of Tzedaka, has the law of a vow, and is subject to the law of: (If you make a vow to G-d,) do not delay in discharging it (בל תאחר). Therefore one must give it immediately. Whereas with a wealthy person, there is no vow involved. Therefore, it is permissible to delay the gift until a later period. However, from the letter of the law, he fulfilled his word since he did not retract, even with the wealthy person.

The situation in the conclusion of Tractate Shvi’it, is dealing with a case where one said to give the gift while in the presence of the recipient of the gift (בפני מקבל המתנה). Therefore even with a large gift, the recipient does not rely on it. Nevertheless, according to Middat Chassidut, there is the issue that one should not retract from what he promised. Whereas in the Talmud Yerushalmi Bava Metzia, there, it is dealing in a case where he did not say it in the presence of the recipient of the gift, and he is just revealing to his servant that he should gift the gift. Therefore there is a difference between a poor person, where it becomes like a vow, versus that of a wealthy person, where this is not so. For since the recipient of the gift is not aware of his intentions, there is not even a aspect of retracting due to Middat Chassidut.

However, in addition to the difficulty and forcedness of all these explanations – one must explain the essence of the matter:

For seemingly, from the plain words of the Talmud Yerushalmi here, it is understood that the conduct of Rav‘s acting according to Middat Chassidut, where he never retracted from his word, and that he fulfilled his word, even though, according to law, he was not obligated to do so –

And because of this reason, there is no difference whether the recipient is wealthy or whether it is a large gift (and the recipient does not rely on it), or whether it is not in the presence of the recipient etc. –

In any event there is a change in his words. For he does not fulfill what he said.

And one cannot say according to the great conduct of Rav in the matter of Middat Chassidut (for especially Rav conducted himself according to the ten aspects of Chassidut (בעשרה מילי דחסידותא)) that he did not keep his word, in all its details.

(Note: Ten aspects of Chassidut that Rav kept and that not all others could follow:

  1. He would not walk four cubits upright.
  2. He would not walk four cubits with an uncovered head.
  3. He would fulfill eating three meals on Shabbat.
  4. He would not gaze around him.
  5. He would not look even in front of him, for if someone met him, he would not know who it was until he heard his voice.
  6. When he went to the Beit Midrash, he would circumvent and not walk in front of the Sages.
  7. He would not eat from a permissible meal, because of forbidden fat, blood and Gid HaNasheh.
  8. If anyone was upset with him, he would go to the person and appease him.
  9. He was accustomed to wear Tefilin.
  10. His voice was pleasant, and he would lead the services, and he would be an interpreter for Rabbi Chiya, and for anyone who required this, in order to fulfill the verse: “Honor G-d with your wealth”.

עשרה מילי חסידות דהוה נהוג בהן רב ובתריה לא יכלין כולהו


א) דלא הוה מסגי ד׳ אמות בקומה זקופה

ב) ד לא הוה מסגי ד׳ אמות בגלוי הראש

ג) דהוה מקיים ג׳ סעודות בשבת

ד) דלא הוה מביט לצדרין

ה) דאפילו לפניו לא היה מביט דמאן דאתי לקבליה לא הוי ידע ליה עד דשמע קליה

ו) כד הוי עייל לבי מדרשא הוה מקיף ולא הוה פסע ועייל קמי רבנן

ז) דלא הוה אכיל מסעודת הרשות, משום חלב ודם וגיד הנשה

 ח) דכל דקפיד עליה אזיל איהו גביה והוה איהו מפייס ליה

ט) שהיה רגיל בתפילין

י) שהיה קולו ערב, והיה רגיל לירד לפני התיבה, ולהיות מתורגמן לרבי (חייא) ולכל מי שצריך

 לקיים מה שנאמר כבד את ה׳ מהונך



and even though in Talmud Bavli it states that Rav disagreed with Rav Yochanan and held that reneging on a verbal commitment does not constitute an act of bad faith – indeed even there it is speaking of the letter of the law and not to the specific custom of Rav himself. Whereas, in the Talmud Yerushalmi Bava Metzia where it speaks of Rav’s personal conduct like it states in Tractate Shvi’it.

3. It appears that one can explain all this by prefacing an examination of the precise wording of the two sections of the Talmud Yerushalmi:

At the conclusion of Tractate Shvi’it the wording of Rav is:

“When I say to the members of my household” (כד אנא אמר לבני ביתי)

Whereas in Bava Metzia the wording is:

 “Rav instructed his servant” (רב מפקד לשמשי)

(And one should not say that since this conduct was Middat Chassidut, therefore he wanted to show and teach his household in the aspect of Middat Chassidut, which is not so regarding his servant, where there is no obligation to teach him. For even when he “instructed his servant”, it is speaking of conduct that is in the context of being an emissary of Rav).

Therefore it appears that the difference is, that regarding the words of Rav to the members of his household, it refers to the specific funds and property of Rav and the members of his household. Whereas specifically regarding his servant (for with him it is not applicable to that he is a “member of his household”) it is not dealing with the individual wealth of Rav and the members of his household, but rather, with the wealth that is under his control as a rabbi in his city. For many types of funds are under his control and authority (even though they do not personally belong to him).

For example: The communal charity fund, funds (of a private individual or group) that were given to him to distribute or to be in charge of their distribution to Tzedaka, and so forth.

And it is understood that regarding these funds under his domain (that do not personally belong to him), Rav was accustomed to command his servant (the servant of Beit din) and so forth. Whereas regarding the funds (the items) in his house – Rav commanded the members of his household, including his servant and the valet of his house.

According to this, the difference between the occurrences of Rav in the Talmud Yerushalmi Shvi’it versus that of the Talmud Yerushalmi Bava Metzia is understood:

Rav’s conduct regarding his personal wealth (of which he commanded the members of his household) was with Middat Chassidut, not to change his wealth (even if this entailed the loss of money, for example, a gift, or a sale when the items increased in value etc.). However regarding the funds that were not his, but rather communal (or private) funds, that were under his control, there is no place to be stringent on oneself and to conduct oneself with Middat Chassidut not to change one’s word, since this is a thing that is related to the community (or to private individuals) whose funds are under his control. Therefore his (Rav’s) pious conduct (Middat Chassidut) is not applicable to these funds (of the community (or to private individuals).

Therefore, in both cases (one must consider the intent):

  • Regarding a private person’s items that are in his domain, one must evaluate the thoughts of the owner of the funds, to determine how much he wants to give.
  • And also regarding the funds of the community and so forth, one must evaluate the thoughts of (the majority of) the community and those responsible for the funds.

Therefore, Rav said to this servant, that “when I say to give a gift to a poor person, you should give it immediately”. For it is clear and certain to Rav, that not just, regarding communal funds that are designated to the Tzedaka of the community that they rely on him (Rav) to distribute it; but also regarding an individual – he consents to Rav’s giving his funds to a poor person, since he is the rabbi of the community.

However, regarding a wealthy person, he instructed “ask me a second time”. For his instruction to give it, in the beginning, was according Rav’s personal thoughts. Therefore, he needed to re-evaluate the thoughts of the owners of the funds to determine if they agree to this gift (to the wealthy person). Therefore he said “ask me a second time”.

4. One must understand this:

Even if in the section of Bava Metzia it is dealing with the wealth of others, nevertheless, when Rav changed his words afterwards, there is a lacking of Middat Chassidut of Rav (since he is not standing by his word – even if there is a reason for this). If so, from the perspective of Middat Chassidut, Rav should not have instructed, at the beginning, regarding this gift, if it was possible that he would change his word.


If Rav was given the full responsibility and the authority (in the capacity of executor, and so forth), it should not have seemingly mattered what the will of the owners of the funds was, for indeed, everything was under the control of Rav?

One could say the explanation of this is:

The reason that in Tractate Shvi’it, from the perspective of Middat Chassidut, Rav did not retract his words, is because the intent is that, besides that which after he said it, he did not retract, in addition to this, this effected a change in the essence of his words (בגוף דיבורו). For since at the time of his speech, his regular custom was “your yes (hen/ הן שלך (יהי׳) צדק) should be just”. In other words to keep one’s word and to uphold it.

(Note: The Talmud asks: “What is the meaning when the verse states: “A just ephah, and a just hin, shall you have” (Leviticus 19:36)? But wasn’t a hin included in an ephah? Why is it necessary to state both? Rather, this is an allusion that serves to say to you that your yes (hen) should be just, and your no should be just).

(And certainly at the time of the speech, there must be “your yes should be just” –

that one should tell him with certainty to give him, not speaking facetiously (היתול) and so forth – speaking one thing and meaning another matter in his heart “ (אחד בפה ואחד בלב))-

that with the speech alone it completes the transaction and he gives it – that though the speech itself, the acquisition of the item that he gives as a gift - is complete.

And as is proven from the beginning of words of Talmud Yerushalmi Shvi’it there, that they question Rav’s conduct, as it states

“The Mishnah disputes Rav. When do we say that that movable property is acquired with Meshicha, when it is in the public domain or in a yard that does not belong to both of them etc., (however) if it in the domain of the seller, he does not acquire it until he lifts it up or until he draws the entire item from the domain of the sellers etc.”

(For seemingly, what it the relevance of Rav’s words to the Beraita? Rav said that he does not retract from his word,

(In order that it not acting in bad faith, or in order that the Sages become well pleased with him etc.”)

and not regarding the acquisition of the item. And if the Beraita is dealing with the law of acquisition: he “does not acquire it until he lifts it up etc.”? And it is proven from this that)

the Talmud Yerushalmi explains the words of Rav who holds that; there is an acquisition in this, and therefore he does not retract.

And this is what is asked by the commentators that:

“if, regarding the seller and the buyer, we say that the buyer does not acquire it until he lifts it up or until he removes it from the domain of the owners, then how much more so is it with regard to the recipient of a gift – that he does not merit the gift with speech alone. Therefore why does Rav state ‘I do not retract’”

(And it is simple according to what is answered in the Talmud Yerushalmi there that “one case is speaking where the buyer stands the seller in the place of the item when he makes the sale, and the other case is where the buyer is not standing in the place of the item”. And as the commentators explain, that

“Rav set this Beraita up as a case where the buyer is not standing with the seller. Therefore he does not acquire the item until the buyer utilizes the methods of acquisition. And the case of Rav itself involved standing the recipient with him at the time that he said to give it to him, and he showed him what the item was.“

For since “he was standing with him“ therefore he acquired it and he cannot retract).

One can similarly say this regarding the conclusion of the Talmud Yerushalmi that states:

“There it is regarding the letter of law, and Rav conducted himself according to Middat Chassidut”,

This means that the reason that Rav conducted himself according to Middat Chassidut and did not retract, was not different from that which he held in the beginning (in the Talmud Yerushalmi) in the view of Rav (that there is acquisition with words). In other words, that Rav’s Middat Chassidut (not to retract from his word) does not mean that he should not retract afterwards from his word, but rather that from the perspective of his Middat Chassidut, his word itself carried weight in that it completed and effected acquisition.

According to this one can understand that it is possible to say all this, only with regard to the speech to his the members of his household. For regarding his personal property and wealth, his word contains power with regard to the acquisition of the gift that he says to funds to his friend.

However, when it is dealing with items that belong to another or of the community, and they are just entrusted to his domain to command their use etc. like the case of Bava Metzia where he instructs his servant, then acquisition does not apply to these funds (or even obligation) in the body of the gift.

(And therefore the concept of “Middat Chassidut” does not apply to Rav, here, at the very onset, namely that he should abide by his word. Accordingly, if his words are not fulfilled afterward, due to the decision of the owners of the funds, there is no lacking in the characteristic of his Middat Chassidut).

Accordingly, Rav instructed his servant:

“When I say to you to give a gift to a poor person, give it to him immediately, and do not question me further, for I am not able to retract, and if the recipient is a wealthy person, ask me a second time”.

For the intent of this is not that regarding a poor person, it becomes a vow and therefore one is not allowed to retract, but rather it is the opposite -

(And it is like the plain understanding of the continuation of the Talmud Yerushalmi there, that it cites how Rav, in the section that is before this, was able to retract)

to emphasize the difference between this speech to that of the speech to his the members of his household.

For here, there is no acquisition (and so forth) through the saying and the speech - meaning that with the speech alone he completes and acquisition (or obligates himself), like in the case where he is speaking to his the members of his household.

But rather it is dependent upon who is the recipient. Therefore when the recipient is a poor person or he needs to give it to him immediately. For he knows that, also the view of the owner of the funds (or the community) is that it be given, and there is no need for additional clarification, as aforementioned.

5. All aspects of Torah are precise. And it is understood from this that the reason that the conclusion of tractate Shvi’it is (not just in the aspect of Shvi’it, but rather) in the law regarding funds and so forth, as it states:

“Whosoever fulfills his word, the Sages are well pleased with him”,

and in this itself, the Talmud (Yerushalmi) comments further regarding Rav’s conduct in this matter –

that it is in a manner of Middat Chassidut

this means that this conduct of “whosoever fulfills his word” (and in a manner of Middat Chassidut ) is related to the general topic of the aspect of Shvi’it.

And one can explain this according to homily (in Avodat HaAdam) by prefacing a statement of the Sages on the verse:

“And the faith of your times etc.” that “faith” refers to the Mishnaic Order of Zera’im (Seeds) and “it is explained in Talmud Yerushalmi that he believes in the ‘world’s Life’ (G-d) and sows” (ש­מאמין בחי העולמים וזורע).

And regarding this, it is explained in another place (21 לקו׳ש ח״א ע׳) that even though the aspect of sowing is in the nature and conduct of the world, Creation, and that even a non-Jew, who does not believe in the “world’s Life” sows and relies on his planting, nevertheless a Jewish person who plants, does so, not because this is the conduct of the world –

like the conduct of his non-Jewish neighbor, and even not because he has conducted himself so, many times, for he has planted many times, and in each time, the planting brought forth produce etc. –

but rather only because “he believes in the “world’s Life” (G-d) and (therefore he) plants (now).

On a deeper level:

The novelty in this that a Jewish person relies on G-d (the “world’s Life“) when he plants, can be in two manners:

  1. He is certain that the planting will come to fruition (as is nature of the world) since he relies on G-d, Who created the world and implanted within it the laws of nature in a manner of “seed-time and harvest . . will never be suspended“. And only because of this he trusts that his planting will be successful and fruitful.

For in this manner, the ways of nature have importance to him (תופסים מקום אצלו). However, their importance is not from themselves, but rather because G-d implanted these laws in Creation.

  1. “He believes in theworld’s Life’ (G-d) and sows. In other words, the ways of nature do not hold importance for him, at all. And he does not rely on them at all (since he feels how G-d creates nature every second from nothing to something (מאין ליש), and that the dictates of nature do not have a being at all (איו להם מציאות כלל)). And he plants solely because of his faith in G-d. For since G-d commanded him to plant, he relies and is certain that G-d will make his planting successful and that it will grow. And this is the meaning of the precise wording of the Sages that “He believes in the world’s Life”. For if this was just because he relies on G-d, Who conducts nature, there is no need now for faith (that is above intellect) since with the help of his Father (in Heaven) (בצירוף אביו) etc., it will result in a harvest that is hundred-fold (and one) times.

However, since from his perspective, the ways of nature do not have any bearing at all and he relies just on G-d, that He will make his planting successful – for this he needs faith that is above intellect.

6. According to this the aspect of the Mitzvah of Shvi’it is understood and fitting.

For plainly, the root of this Mitzvah is to imbue and implant within a person the recognition that the produce of the land is dependent only upon G-d. Therefore G-d commanded “the land shall rest a Sabbath to the L-rd “, in a manner that the person relies solely on G-d. Therefore even though “We will not sow, and we will not gather in our produce“, “(Know then, that) I will command My blessing for etc.”

And one could say that the intent of this Mitzvah is not just for one who has not attained this level of “He believes in the world’s Life and sows”, and therefore he requires the Mitzvah of Shvi’it to imbue in him this recognition. But this is even for one who sows his field in the course of six years in a manner of “He believes in the world’s Life and sows“ (as aforementioned) – nevertheless, even for him, the Mitzvah of Shvi’it effects a major novelty.

The explanation of this is:

In the course of six years, even though the person knows that the laws of nature and the act of his planting is not the true cause of the growth of the plants and the fruit. Nevertheless, since in actuality, there is the person’s action, and G-d’s blessing comes to him through the intermediation of his deed, as it states: “your G-d, will bless you in everything you do “, specifically, his faith in the “world’s Life” is not visibly recognizable and revealed.

Specifically in the seventh year, when he does not plant etc. and there is no act and deed of people, and nevertheless he occupies himself with Torah study, in a relaxed manner without worry (ב­מנוחה בלי שום דאגה), this shows his faith in the “world’s Life”.

7. According to all the aforementioned, one can understand the relation of Shvi’it to the custom of “keeping one’s word” (so much so that it comes to the epitome of the completeness in this in a manner of Middat Chassidut, so much so that it reaches the conduct of Rav):

The nations of the world also have methods of acquisition (דרכי הקנינים). For when a person makes an acquisition (according to the methods of acquisition in each country, that are customary in each place) the item passes to his ownership. However for a Jewish person, the power of the act of his acquisition is not because that it is accepted, as such, among the manners of the world, but rather because G-d commanded him so in His Torah, and He gave us laws of acquisition, as it states “And when you make a sale or make a purchase from the hand of your fellow Jew etc. “ and so forth.

And the Mishnah adds at the end of Tractate Shvi’it, that there is an even loftier conduct, namely that of “whosoever fulfills his word”, even though there is no act of acquisition.

Therefore, even though, according to the ways of the world, the item is not acquired, and even from the Torah’s perspective, even beyond the letter of the law (that gives power to the manners of acquisition), there seemingly is no acquisition. Nevertheless, due to one’s great piety,

(Middat Chassidut) (That comes from the general command of the Torah regarding abiding by his word)

since he obligates himself with his word, this is considered by him as if the item is already acquired, and he keeps his word.

And may it be His will that through the occupation of the Tractate Shvi’it, so much so, to its conclusion and Siyum, that we soon merit to actually fulfill this Mitzvah. That the tidings of “O L-rd, You have appeased Your land (“You made the Shmittah’s”); You have returned the Captivity of Jacob“ is fulfilled, with the coming of our righteous Moshiach, who will lead us upright to our land, in this year – the year of “your hand will relinquish“ (תשמט ידיך) (5749) – mamosh.

MSichas Vav Tishrei and Shabbat Parshat Ha’azinu 5747



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