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Pumbedita and the Silk Road
A few thoughts out of many on this extremely rich daf, Kiddushin 7.
(1) Rava is extremely liberal in what mechanisms he allows to work to effect kiddushin via kesef. Now on this daf, he continues. Kesef will work even if (A) he isn’t the giver, (B) even if she isn’t the receiver, or (C) neither he is the giver nor she is the receiver, so long as there is some connection to him or her as giver or receiver. Look at those cases to confirm. Then, Rava inquires about a fourth case. Forget about the possible implication of recent braytot. Given A, B, and even C, why not have her give him the money?! Logically, that should work!
Indeed, sixth-generation Mar Zutra (who led Pumpedita at the end of his life) cites his teacher, Rav Pappa (whom he frequently cites, alongside earlier figures like Rav Huna, Rav Chisda, and Rav Sheshet), who is a talmid muvhak of Rava, that it indeed works.
Fifth-generation Rav Ashi argues using a proof by contradiction. If you say this, then the directionality is that she flows along with (agav) the money to him, and that would mean that agav would work to carry lienable property (e.g. land) alongside nonlienable property (e.g. moveable objects). Yet a Mishnah states it specifically works the other way, moveable property alongside land, with the kinyan on land being kesef, shetar, chazaka.
Mar Zutra responds, and I would divide his response. Oftentimes an Amora makes a concise statement (e.g. an apodictic statement) and the Stamma adds explanation to it. And that explanation doesn’t always accord to original intent. We want Mar Zutra to answer in a way that preserves Rav Pappa’s assertion, in a way that actually answers Rava’s query. And he does. He answers מִי סָבְרַתְּ דְּאָמְרָה לֵיהּ ״אַגַּב״? Do you think that she said to him “agav”?
That is, halacha often puts great stock in the specific mechanisms used. For instance, a week or so back, if someone divorced saying “you are permitted to marry anyone except (chutz) Ploni”, it would have one law, but “you are permitted to marry anyone on condition that you do not marry Ploni” would have another law. Structuring it as a condition as opposed to an exclusion will make the difference, even though you are trying to accomplish the same result.
Similarly, perhaps establishing a eruv techumin, either to the West or the East depending on whether the chacham comes to the West or East location may run afoul of bereira. But, making two separate declarations, (A) one to establish one’s Shabbat abode to the East if the chacham comes to the east, but not establishing it there if he doesn’t come, and (B) one to establish one’s Shabbat abode to the West if the chacham comes to the west, but not establishing it there if he doesn’t come — could potentially work, as tnai rather than bereira. So too recently, in terms of structuring something as a vow or an oath with make a difference.
So, says Mar Zutra, so long as she does not invoke “agav”, it isn’t an agav. It is rather a kinyan kesef, in which one party pays and another party receives.
And indeed, Rava says, so too in terms of mamon. So, you could even pay for a field in these manners and it would work. And indeed, I’d add, even as a transfer of money from the giver of the field to the taker of the field, not via agav. It is a different mechanism.
Dr. Zvi Arie Steinfeld has an article about adam chashuv shaini, a prominent person is distinct, where he shows that there is a core of Amoraic cases of adam chashuv and a whole bunch of Savoraic applications, where the Savoraic applications are actually different in kind. I’m suggesting the same here, that the adam chashuv is not primary.
But within adam chashuv, that she receives benefit by virtue of him accepting his gift, then Rav Pappa was never even addressing Rava’s inquiry, which was based on the established idea that she need not receive benefit and he need not suffer loss!
(Also, relate this to the original dispute between Ritva, that in the initial Rava case, it isn’t that she gives herself over for no benefit, but that the benefit is that he is listening to her to give money to someone else. I’d favor Tosafot in Bava Metzia, that indeed there is no benefit.)
(2) Towards the end of daf zayin, where someone betrothed by giving silks, there is a dispute between Rabba and Rav Yosef if one needs to assess them. The Talmudic Narrator offers to accounts for their argument. In the first, if its made clear and she is willing to accept them whatever their value (kol dehu) so long as it’s a perutah, they all agree it works; and if he overstates the price, all agree it doesn’t work. They argue where he accurately stated the price but there wasn’t a formal assessment. The issue is that she isn’t familiar with the price of silks and may still have a wrong value in mind. In the second, they disagree even if she’s willing to accept kol dehu, because when we say that shava kesef is equivalent to kesef, Rav Yosef requires that it be assessed, so that just as the money has a fixed value, the shava kesef has a fixed value.
I would suggest a third explanation of Rabba and Rav Yosef’s dispute. The Silk Road began in China, and a terminus was in Ctesiphon, a capital city of the Parthians and the Sassanians. Right next to this was Mechoza. About 27.6 miles away was Pumbedita.
In areas along the Silk Road, the goods had a fixed exchange rate, one for the other. Effectively, a bag of spices was a unit of currency. We see this have practical halachic effect in Ketubot 67a.
אָמַר רַבִּי יַנַּאי: בְּשָׂמִים שֶׁל אַנְטוֹכְיָא — הֲרֵי הֵן כִּכְסָפִים. אָמַר רַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָנִי אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: גְּמַלִּים שֶׁל עַרְבִיָּא — אִשָּׁה גּוֹבָה פֻּרְנָא מֵהֶם.
§ Apropos the preceding discussion concerning the appraisal of objects used for commerce, the Gemara cites a series of related comments. Rabbi Yannai said: With regard to spices in Antioch, they are like money. Since in Antioch they would conduct business with spices, they should be treated like cash when a woman brings them in her dowry. Similarly, Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Concerning camels in Arabia, a woman may collect the amount of her marriage settlement from them. Since they conduct business using camels in Arabia, the camels are consequently given the status that money has in other places.
אָמַר רַב פַּפִּי: הָנֵי תּוֹתְבֵי דְּבֵי מִכְסֵי, אִשָּׁה גּוֹבָה פֻּרְנָא מֵהֶם. וְאָמַר רַב פַּפִּי: הָנֵי שַׂקֵּי דְרוּדְיָא וְאַשְׁלֵי דְקִמְחוֹנְיָא — אִשָּׁה גּוֹבָה פֻּרְנָא מֵהֶן. אָמַר רָבָא, מֵרֵישׁ הֲוָה אָמֵינָא: הָנֵי אַרְנְקֵי דְמָחוֹזָא — אִשָּׁה גּוֹבָה פֻּרְנָא מֵהֶם. מַאי טַעְמָא? אַסְמַכְתַּיְיהוּ עֲלַיְיהוּ. כֵּיוָן דַּחֲזַאי דְּשָׁקְלִי לְהוּ וְנָפְקִי, וְכִי מַשְׁכְּחִי אַרְעָא זָבְנִי בְּהוּ, אָמֵינָא: אַסְמַכְתַּיְיהוּ אַאַרְעָא הוּא.
Similarly, Rav Pappi said: With regard to those robes in Bei Mikhsei, a woman may collect her marriage settlement from them because they use dresses for commerce. And Rav Pappi said: With regard to these sacks in Rodya and ropes in Kimḥonya, a woman may collect her marriage settlement from them. Rava said: Initially, I would have said that concerning those money pouches [arnakei] in Meḥoza, a woman may collect her marriage settlement from them. What is the reason? They rely on them, and they serve the commercial function served by real estate in other places. Once I saw that they take them and the pouches are used, and when they find land they buy it with them and do not retain them, I said that they too rely on land. The money pouches are used in a fluid manner, but these pouches do not serve the same role served by real estate.
Indeed, to this day, you can (as a joke) calculate how much you can for your girlfriend in camels.
Read about sheep, goats and camels as dowries.
It is not that the silk fabric is shava kesef, and we must fix its price so it will be like kesef. Rather, according to Rabba, these silks are kesef, so you don’t need to conduct a shuma, assessment.
If I’m right, then even though we pasken like Rabba (see Kiddushin 9a), it should be hard to extend this to other cases of shava kesef, which are not currency on the Silk Road.
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