Bava Basra 23 - 29
An Ecological Potboiler
In order to protect the ecology of Eretz Yisrael the Sages decreed a number of restrictions on the commercial activities of individuals. One of these was a ban on planting a tree on one's own land within 25 cubits (approximately 46 feet) of a city in order to guarantee a vacant "green belt" to beautify the city.
If it was planted within this restricted area after the city limits had already reached this point the violating tree may be chopped down without compensation to its planter. If it had been planted at the proper distance, however, and the city expanded to within the 25 cubits the tree may still be chopped down but compensation must subsequently be provided to its owner.
The Mishnah clearly indicates that the issue of compensation arises only after the tree has been removed. The question therefore arises as to why the tree owner cannot insist that he receive compensation before the tree is removed so that he will be certain not to suffer a severe loss.
In response to this question Rabbi Cahana quoted the folk wisdom that "a communal pot is never hot and never cold" which spells out the rule of human nature that every individual in a collective group passes responsibility on to another and nothing ever gets done. Should we require the individual citizen who volunteers to chop down the offending tree to first provide compensation there is a danger that everyone will pass the buck and the tree will, to the delight of its owner, continue to mar the beauty of the city. We therefore mandate the removal of the tree first and require the owner to go to court for compensation.
- Bava Basra 24b
A Selection of Direction
Although one always stands in prayer facing the direction of Eretz Yisrael, Jerusalem and the Temple Site, he may angle slightly either north or south according to the main objective of his prayer.
Rabbi Yitzchak advises one seeking wisdom to angle south because the menorah, symbol of the light of wisdom, stood in the southern part of the Sanctuary, and one seeking wealth to angle north because the table, symbol of material sustenance , stood in the north.
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, however, counsels even the seeker of wealth to angle south because success in achieving the wisdom of Torah brings along with it wealth as, King Solomon wrote in his Proverbs:
- Bava Basra 25b