Eruvin 85-86 The tenant and the rich man

The Mishna on Eruvin 85b tells us that someone who dwells in a store-room that opens to a courtyard needs to participate in the eruv chatzeiros, and if he does not do so, he forbids the courtyard to everyone else.

Rabbi Yehuda, however opines that if the owner of the courtyard has a תפיסת יד (hold) on it , it is not an issue.

Rashi explains that this means that if the owner uses some of the space inside the storeroom to store his own things, it is considered still to be his רשות (domain.)

The Gemara  here seems to understands this to be part of  a general rule that when the owner retains usage of the house, he can also be part of the eruv in place of the tenant.

The Gemara gives the example of a very wealthy man, Bunias, who owned courtyards and allowed others to stay in them on condition that he could keep some of his property in them.

Rashi seems to understand that he used to “lend” the houses to them, whereas the Ritva understands that he sometimes “lent” and sometimes rented them to people.

As a rental ostensibly confers a higher degree of quasi ownership than a loaned house where no money is paid, this could be very significant regarding whether some level of קנין  is required here or whether simply דירה  (long-term dwelling) is sufficient to make the inhabitant the deciding factor regarding eruvin. (See Meiri who relates this to the debate whether עירוב משום דירה או משום קנין  .)

While the possibility that a long-term inhabitant might be considered the quasi owner regarding eruvin even if he does not pay for his stay certainly seems to be assumed by Rashi, short-term guests in hotels or visitors that stay in their own cottages in one’s courtyard could well  have a different law, but see our post on Eruvin 65.

The Beraisa proceeds to tell how when Bunias arrived, Rebbe himself would tell everyone to make space for the man of “100 portions.”

When another wealthy man arrived, however, he told them to make space for the man of “200 portions.”

Rashi explains that Rebbe thought the second person was even wealthier and thus honored him according to his level of wealth!

רבי ישמעאל ברבי יוסי pointed out to Rebbe that Bunias was actually wealthier than the second person, and his father owned 1000 boats at sea and 1000 cities on land!

Rebbe responded that when רבי ישמעאל ברבי יוסי next went to visit Bunias’ father, he should tell him to send his son in fancier clothes next time (so he will know how wealthy he is and honor him accordingly [see Rashi])

The Gemara proceeds to tell us how not only Rebbe, but also Rabbi Akiva were particular about honoring the wealthy.

For those of us who are naturally put off by the idea of the wealthy in a community being giving some of the top honors, and the common practise of auctioning off the best honors to the highest bigger, it might seem difficult to accept how such great Tannaim seemed to go along with this approach?

Surely  a person should be given honors based on merit, rather than on the size of his wallet?

Surely the road to community leadership should not bypass the less fortunate?

We discussed in our post on Daf 49 that although the Torah takes social responsibilities very seriously, enforces charity and tithes, and certainly does not accept a libertarian “laizze faire” approach to economics, it also has total respect for individual property rights and for the right to generate personal wealth.

We also noted that according to one view, the entire institution of allowing one to send a messenger with bread for eruv techumin rather than having to go there oneself was to make it easier for the wealthy, and that the Torah actually treats the wealthy with great respect.

This case serves as a prime example of this  honor shown to wealthy people.

Yet by the end of the sugya, it becomes clear that this honor is not unconditional, and that it is not a contradiction to the merit based approach that the Torah is famous for(for example a learned Mamzer takes priority over an ignorant priest!)

In explaining Rabbi Akiva’s great honor for the wealthy, the Gemara brings a passuk (Tehillim 61/):

“ישב עולם לפני אלהים חסד ואמת מן ינצרהו”- read midrashically as “The world shall endure in front of Elokim,  kindness and truth will guard it”

The Gemara applies this passuk to a wealthy person and says- When will the world sit forever in front of Hashem (endure?)  When kindness and truth guard it (when the wealthy use their money to perform acts of kindness and truth.)

The Torah’s true attitude to wealth is that it was given to the wealthy in order to help the less fortunate, and that when they do this, they are actually sustaining and building the world, something very worthy of honor!

It is thus fitting that someone like Bunias should be used as an example of a wealthy man honored by Rebbe, given that he used to “lend” his properties to people, at least sometimes free of charge, to live in!

Whether a less generous wealthy man loses this right to honor completely, or should still be honored given his potential, or in the hope of encouraging him to fulfill his purpose, is of course subject to discussion, but it seems that Chazal had little tolerance for wealthy misers who refused to give some of their wealth to others, and in this regard  ממשכנין על הצדקה- we take collateral from people in order to force them to give tzedakah, sometimes in very large sums(B.B. 8b)

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha

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