Thursday, March 18, 2010
the shiur for bal yera'eh and the definition of ba'alus (III)
We are now up to round three in our discussion of why there is bal year’ah on chameitz worth less than a perutah according to Rashi’s view (Sukkah 27b) that a partnership share worth less than a pertuah does not make one a shutaf (links to: part 1, part 2). If there is no concept of ownership on anything valued at less than a perutah, how can there be bal yera'eh - the chameitz is not yours? My son protested against the sevara I am about to post, but I like it, so I’m going to say it anyway, and if you want to protest too, go ahead : ) I don’t think Rashi means to say that the concept of ownership does not apply to less than a perutah in value. Remember the question of the Minchas Chinuch mentioned last week: there is an issur gezel on less than a perutah, so how can you say an item worth less than a perutah has no owner? To get around that question I think we have to distinguish between two types of value: relative value and absolute value. Yes, an item worth less than a perutah has value and has an owner and therefore there is an issur to steal it. Yes, one is considered the owner of chameitz, no matter how insignificant in value it may be, because ownership and bal yera'eh are measured by an item's absolute value. However, when we talk about a partnership, which is what Rashi is discussing, we have to address not only the question of whether a share has some absolute value, but also what that share is worth relative to all the other shares. For example, if I own one share of Microsoft stock, am I a “partner” with Bill Gates? Maybe according to some technical legal definition I am, but I think on common sense terms we can all appreciate that the word “partnership” in that context has little meaning. Rashi is not denying that there exists a concept of ownership on items worth a trifle, but Rashi is saying that owning a share worth a trifle is not a significant enough stake to be called a partner. Maybe I like this answer because it is closest to Brisker thinking in that it draws a distinction between two layers of ownership, one that applies to the object depending on absolute value, one that relates to the title granted to the gavra, depending on relative value.