לא יהיה בך אביון שלך קודם לשל כל אדם there shall be no needy among you” (Deuteronomy 15:4). This verse can be understood as a command, indicating that it is incumbent upon each individual to ensure that he will not become needy. Therefore, your assets take precedence over the assets of any other person.
אלא לזקן ואינו לפי כבודו The Gemara concludes: Rather, the verse is necessary to derive the exemption from returning the lost item in the case where he was an elderly person and it is not in keeping with his dignity to tend to the item.
אמר רבה הכישה חייב בה אביי הוה יתיב קמיה דרבה חזא להנך עיזי דקיימו שקל קלא ושדא בהו א"ל איחייבת בהו קום אהדרינהו Rabba says: If there was a lost animal and the elderly person began the process of returning it, e.g., if he struck it even once to guide it in a certain direction, he is obligated to tend to it and return it. The Gemara relates: Abaye was sitting before Rabba and saw these goats standing nearby. He picked up a clod of dirt and threw it at them, causing them to move. Rabba said to him: You have thereby obligated yourself to return them. Arise and return them to their owner.
איבעיא להו דרכו להחזיר בשדה ואין דרכו להחזיר בעיר מהו מי אמרינן השבה מעליא בעינן וכיון דלאו דרכיה להחזיר בעיר לא לחייב או דלמא בשדה מיהת הוא דאיחייב ליה וכיון דאיחייב ליה בשדה איחייב ליה בעיר תיקו A dilemma was raised before the Sages: In a case of a person for whom it is his typical manner to return an item of that type in the field, where there are fewer onlookers, but it is not his typical manner to return an item of that type in the city, what is the halakha? Do we say that for one to be obligated to return a lost item we need an unequivocal obligation to return it that applies in all cases, and since it is not his typical manner to return an item of that sort in the city, let him not be obligated to return such an item at all? Or perhaps, he is obligated in any event to return the item in the field, and once he is obligated to return it in the field, he is also obligated in the city. The Gemara concludes: The dilemma shall stand unresolved.
אמר רבא כל שבשלו מחזיר בשל חבירו נמי מחזיר וכל שבשלו פורק וטוען בשל חבירו נמי פורק וטוען Rava says: In any case where he would recover his own item and would consider it to be in keeping with his dignity, he is also obligated to return another’s item. And any case where he unloads and loads his own animal’s burden, he is also obligated to unload and load the burden of another’s animal.
רבי ישמעאל ברבי יוסי הוה קאזיל באורחא פגע ביה ההוא גברא הוה דרי פתכא דאופי אותבינהו וקא מיתפח א"ל דלי לי אמר ליה כמה שוין א"ל פלגא דזוזא יהיב ליה פלגא דזוזא ואפקרה The Gemara relates: Rabbi Yishmael, son of Rabbi Yosei, was walking on the road. A certain man encountered him, and that man was carrying a burden that consisted of sticks of wood. He set down the wood and was resting. The man said to him: Lift them for me and place them upon me. Since it was not in keeping with the dignity of Rabbi Yishmael, son of Rabbi Yosei, to lift the wood, Rabbi Yishmael said to him: How much are they worth? The man said to him: A half-dinar. Rabbi Yishmael, son of Rabbi Yosei, gave him a half-dinar, took possession of the wood, and declared the wood ownerless.
הדר זכה בהו הדר יהיב ליה פלגא דזוזא ואפקרה חזייה דהוה קא בעי למיהדר למזכיה בהו א"ל לכולי עלמא אפקרנהו ולך לא אפקרנהו The man then reacquired the wood and again requested that Rabbi Yishmael, son of Rabbi Yosei, lift the wood for him. Rabbi Yishmael, son of Rabbi Yosei, again gave him a half-dinar, again took possession of the wood, and again declared the wood ownerless. He then saw that the man desired to reacquire the sticks of wood. Rabbi Yishmael, son of Rabbi Yosei, said to him: I declared the sticks of wood ownerless with regard to everyone else, but I did not declare them ownerless with regard to you.
ומי הוי הפקר כי האי גוונא והתנן בש"א הפקר לעניים הפקר וב"ה אומרים אינו הפקר עד שיהא הפקר לעניים ולעשירים כשמיטה The Gemara asks: But is property rendered ownerless in a case like this? But didn’t we learn in a mishna (Pe’a 6:1) that Beit Shammai say: Property declared ownerless for the poor is thereby rendered ownerless. And Beit Hillel say: It is not ownerless, until the property will be ownerless for the poor and for the rich, like produce during the Sabbatical Year, which is available for all. As the halakha is in accordance with the opinion of Beit Hillel, how could Rabbi Yishmael, son of Rabbi Yosei, declare the wood ownerless selectively, excluding the prior owner of the wood?
אלא רבי ישמעאל ברבי יוסי לכולי עלמא אפקרינהו ובמלתא בעלמא הוא דאוקמיה Rather, Rabbi Yishmael, son of Rabbi Yosei, actually declared the wood ownerless to everyone without exception, and it was with a mere statement that he prevented him from reacquiring the wood, i.e., he told the man not to reacquire the wood even though there was no legal impediment to that reacquisition.
והא רבי ישמעאל ברבי יוסי זקן ואינו לפי כבודו הוה ר' ישמעאל ברבי יוסי לפנים משורת הדין הוא דעבד The Gemara asks: But wasn’t Rabbi Yishmael, son of Rabbi Yosei, an elderly person and it was not in keeping with his dignity to tend to the item? Why did he purchase the wood and render it ownerless in order to absolve himself of the obligation to lift the burden if he had no obligation to do so in the first place? The Gemara answers: In the case of Rabbi Yishmael, son of Rabbi Yosei, he conducted himself beyond the letter of the law, and he could have simply refused the request for help.
דתני רב יוסף (שמות יח, כ) והודעת להם זה בית חייהם את הדרך זו גמילות חסדים [(אשר) ילכו זה ביקור חולים בה זו קבורה ואת המעשה זה הדין אשר יעשון זו לפנים משורת הדין: The Gemara cites a source for going beyond the letter of the law in the performance of mitzvot. As Rav Yosef taught in a baraita with regard to the verse: “And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and shall show them the path wherein they shall walk and the action that they must perform” (Exodus 18:20). The baraita parses the various directives in the verse. “And you shall teach them,” that is referring to the structure of their livelihood, i.e., teach the Jewish people trades so that they may earn a living; “the path,” that is referring to acts of kindness; “they shall walk,” that is referring to visiting the ill; “wherein,” that is referring to burial; “and the action,” that is referring to acting in accordance with the letter of the law; “that they must perform,” that is referring to acting beyond the letter of the law.
אמר מר (אשר) ילכו זה ביקור חולים היינו גמילות חסדים לא נצרכה אלא לבן גילו דאמר מר בן גילו נוטל אחד מששים בחליו ואפי' הכי מבעי ליה למיזל לגביה The Gemara analyzes the baraita. The Master said: With regard to the phrase “they shall walk,” that is referring to visiting the ill. The Gemara asks: That is a detail of acts of kindness; why does the baraita list it separately? The Gemara answers: The reference to visiting the ill is necessary only for the contemporary of the ill person, as the Master said: When one who is a contemporary of an ill person visits him, he takes one-sixtieth of his illness. Since visiting an ill contemporary involves contracting a bit of his illness, a special derivation is necessary to teach that even so, he is required to go and visit him.
בה זו קבורה היינו גמילות חסדים לא נצרכה אלא לזקן ואינו לפי כבודו It was taught in the baraita: With regard to the phrase “wherein,” that is referring to burial. The Gemara asks: That is a detail of acts of kindness; why does the baraita list it separately? The Gemara answers: The reference to burial is necessary only to teach the halakha of an elderly person, and it is in a circumstance where it is not in keeping with his dignity to bury the dead. Therefore, a special derivation is necessary to teach that even so, he is required to participate in the burial.
אשר יעשון זו לפנים משורת הדין דאמר ר' יוחנן לא חרבה ירושלים אלא על שדנו בה דין תורה אלא דיני דמגיזתא לדיינו אלא אימא שהעמידו דיניהם על דין תורה ולא עבדו לפנים משורת הדין: It was taught in the baraita: “That they must perform”; that is referring to acting beyond the letter of the law, as Rabbi Yoḥanan says: Jerusalem was destroyed only for the fact that they adjudicated cases on the basis of Torah law in the city. The Gemara asks: Rather, what else should they have done? Should they rather have adjudicated cases on the basis of arbitrary decisions [demagizeta]? Rather, say: That they established their rulings on the basis of Torah law and did not go beyond the letter of the law.
מתני׳ אי זו היא אבידה מצא חמור או פרה רועין בדרך אין זו אבידה חמור וכליו הפוכין פרה רצה בין הכרמים הרי זו אבידה החזירה וברחה החזירה וברחה אפי' ארבעה וחמשה פעמים חייב להחזירה שנאמר (דברים כב, א) השב תשיבם MISHNA: Which is the item that is considered lost property? If one found a donkey or a cow grazing on the path, that is not lost property, as presumably the owners are nearby and are aware of the animals’ whereabouts. If one found a donkey with its accoutrements overturned, or a cow that ran through the vineyards, that is lost property. In a case where one returned the lost animal and it fled, and he again returned it and it fled, even if this scenario repeats itself four or five times, he is obligated to return it each time, as it is stated: “You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep wandering and disregard them; you shall return them to your brother” (Deuteronomy 22:1).
היה בטל מסלע לא יאמר לו תן לי סלע אלא נותן לו שכרו כפועל אם יש שם בית דין מתנה בפני ב"ד אם אין שם ב"ד בפני מי יתנה שלו קודם: If in the course of tending to and returning the lost item, the finder was idle from labor that would have earned him a sela, he shall not say to the owner of the item: Give me a sela to compensate me for my lost income. Rather, the owner gives him his wage as if he were a laborer, a payment that is considerably smaller. If there are three men there who can convene as a court, he may stipulate before the court that he will undertake to return the item provided that he receives full compensation for lost income. If there is no court there before whom can he stipulate his condition, his financial interests take precedence and he need not return the lost item.
גמ׳ אטו כל הני דאמרינן לאו אבידה הוו אמר רב יהודה הכי קאמר אי זו היא כלל אבידה שהוא חייב בה מצא חמור ופרה רועין בדרך אין זו אבידה ולא מיחייב בה חמור וכליו הפוכים פרה ורצה בין הכרמים הרי זו אבידה ומיחייב בה GEMARA: With regard to the question in the mishna: Which is the item that is considered lost property, the Gemara asks: Is that to say that all those other cases that we stated in this chapter are not lost property? Rav Yehuda said that this is what the tanna is saying: What is the principle employed in defining a lost item that one is obligated to return? The mishna cites examples to illustrate the principle: If one found a donkey or a cow grazing on the path, that is not lost property, and he is not obligated to return it. But if one found a donkey with its accoutrements overturned, or a cow that was running through the vineyards, that is lost property, and he is obligated to return it.
ולעולם אמר רב יהודה אמר רב עד שלשה ימים היכי דמי אי בלילותא אפי' חדא שעתא נמי אי ביממא אפי' טובא נמי לא With regard to the ruling in the mishna that a donkey and cow grazing on the path are not considered lost property, the Gemara asks: And is that the case even if they graze there untended forever? Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: Until three days pass they are not lost. Thereafter, they are considered lost. The Gemara asks: What are the circumstances? If the animal is found grazing at night, even if it is untended for even one hour it can be presumed to be lost, as an owner never grazes his animals untended at night. If the animal is found grazing during the day, even if it is untended for more than three days, it is also not presumed to be lost.
לא צריכא דהוה חזי לה בקדמתא ובחשכתא תלתא יומי אמרינן איתרמויי אתרמי לה ונפקא טפי ודאי אבידה היא The Gemara answers: No, the measure of three days is necessary only in a case where one saw the animal grazing in the early hours in the morning and in the dark of nightfall. For the first three days, we say: It happened that the animal went out a bit earlier or a bit later than usual, but nevertheless, it was with the owner’s knowledge. Once this is observed for more than three days, it is certainly a lost item.
תניא נמי הכי מצא טלית וקרדום This is also taught in a baraita: If one found a cloak or an ax