Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metzia 39b and Rashi
1 א
מסכת בבא מציעא דף לח/ב ורש"י מסכת בבא מציעא דף לח עמוד ב
2 ב
אתמר שבוי שנשבה רב אמר אין מורידין קרוב לנכסיו שמואל אמר מורידין קרוב לנכסיו בששמעו בו שמת כ"ע לא פליגי דמורידין כי פליגי בשלא שמעו בו שמת רב אמר אין מורידין דלמא מפסיד להו ושמואל אמר מורידין כיון דאמר מר שיימינן להו כאריס לא מפסיד להו … תקינו ליה רבנן כי היכי דלא לפסדינהו רש"י: 'מפסיד להו' - ולא יזבל הקרעות, ויזרעם תמיד ויכחישם
It has been stated: If a man is taken captive, Rab said: His next of kin is not authorised to enter upon his estate [i.e. to plant and farm his land]; Samuel said: His next of kin is authorised to enter into his estate. Now, if it was heard that he was dead, all agree that he is authorised to enter. They differ where it was not heard that he had died: Rab said: We do not authorise him to enter, lest he cause them [the fields] to deteriorate; but Samuel said: We authorise him to take possession, for since a Master said, ‘We consider him as a tenant farmer', he will not permit deterioration. ...the Rabbis enacted a measure on his behalf [of the captive], so that he [the tenant] might not cause them [the abandoned land of the estate] to deteriorate. [Translation by Judaic Classics Library] Rashi: ‘[lest] he cause them [the estates] to deteriorate’: and he will not fertilize the land with manure and he will plant incessantly and cause the land to deteriorate.
3 ג

Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. With what issue in regards to the captive man’s field are Rab and Samuel most concerned?

2. Why might the next of kin not take proper care of his father’s fields?

3. Can you think of examples where we have something for only a short time and thus lose the incentive to protect it?

4 ד
Time Period: Rabbinic (Maccabees through the Talmud)