Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The Talmud on land-ownership disputes without proof

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Daf Yomi: ‘Whoever Is Stronger Prevails.’ Talmudic rabbis solve territorial disputes by giving the spoils to the victor.
The principle in such cases [when neither party can produce proof of ownership], the Gemara explains, was established in an analogous dispute over the ownership of a boat. In that case, the rule was that the court takes no action at all: “We do not seize property in a case where ownership is uncertain, and where it was seized, we do not release it.” Then how does the dispute get resolved? The Talmud answers with an ambiguous formula: “Whoever is stronger prevails.” In other words, the parties fight it out, and whoever manages to seize the property keeps it. This is a troubling saying, because it seems to represent an abdication of the whole responsibility of the judges. If the stronger party prevails, then might makes right, and there is no reason to have laws or judges in the first place.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.