October 23, 2022

Ketubot 97

We learn in today’s daf (Ketubot 97a) that if a person sold land because they needed money, and then circumstances changed leading to them not needing to have sold their land, then the sale can be revoked.
Having made this point, we are then told that there was a time when there was a sudden food shortage in Nehardea which prompted the residents of Nehardea to sell their mansions to purchase wheat. However, some time after, wheat was brought to Nehardea thereby bringing down its cost. In response, Rav Nachman ruled that the sale of these mansions should be revoked and they should be returned to their previous owners.
Hearing of this ruling, Rami bar Shmuel told Rav Nachman that this ruling is likely to hinder people from selling their land given the fear that the sale will later be revoked. To this, Rav Nachman replied, “is a food shortage a daily occurrence?” – as if to say that there was no basis to this concern. Rami bar Shmuel then answered him by saying, “yes, food shortages in Nehardea are quite common!”
Considering this exchange it seems strange that two great scholars are debating the frequency of food shortages in such a significant city as Nehardea. In particular, it is especially unusual that Rav Nachman – who was a resident and the Rosh Yeshiva in Nehardea – was unaware of this situation.
However, I think that we can answer this question by noting that Rav Nachman was very rich – which meant that when there were previous food shortages in Nehardea, it did not affect him. And what made this case so different? Because the food shortage was so severe that even the rich mansion owners had to sell their homes.
And what of Rami bar Shmuel who spoke up for the poor of the city? We know very little of him as he is mentioned only twice in the entire Gemara (with the other reference being in Niddah 17b). However, we can assume that he was not rich – thereby leading him to confront Rav Nachman on this point.
Oftentimes we think that it is not our place to speak up to those in power. But what this exchange between Rami bar Shmuel and Rav Nachman highlights is how essential it is to do so – because it is quite possible that those making decisions are unaware of the challenges that the average person is facing.
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