Today’s daf (Yevamot 66b) quotes from Mishna Terumot 11:9 to teach us that a cow rented by a Israel from a Kohen may still eat terumah food, while conversely, a cow rented by a Kohen from a Israel may not. Given this, the question we must consider is why is this the case, and what is logic of this law?
The most basic answer to this question is that there is a big difference between ‘rentership’ – when you have use of an item or animal but it is not legally yours, and ‘ownership’ – when not only can use those items, but they are yours. And in the case of this Mishna, by only renting the cow, it remained the property of its owner.
Significantly, while this distinction applies in all times and places, I often think of it around this time of year when we evaluate our relationship with Torah and when we try and achieve קנין תורה – the acquisition of Torah as particularly reflected in the final chapter of Pirkei Avot.
There are many of us who ‘rent’ our Torah experiences such as being present in shiurim but not engaged. Yet, as we are reminded in today’s daf, if we only rent something it never fully becomes our own. And this is why, in this period between Pesach and Shavuot, it is fitting for us to work on קנין תורה and how, through more seriously committing ourselves to Torah, we stop just being Torah ‘renters’, and instead, we become Torah ‘owners’.