Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lesson Two: The Treasure's Rightful Owner

Dear JLI Student,    

Find a penny, pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck. - Children's Aphorism   

We’ve all found pennies, and perhaps even nickels or dimes. Maybe you were fortunate enough to find a larger bill of money: A dollar, a twenty or a hundred?   

A few years ago, Art Cochell, Floris, Iowa, was dismantling an old clothesline pole in his backyard.  When he removed the pole from the ground, several coins slid out.  Excited by this unexpected discovery, he returned to the area with a metal detector and some tools and continued to unveil a generous stash of coins.  In a media interview, Cochell said that, “this is a dream find for metal detectors.”   

Matters become more complicated, though, when there are a handful of claimants.  In some cases, there can be a whole host of potential takers.  If, for example, the treasure were found on someone else’s property, the homeowner might claim that it belongs to him.  The finder will also like feel like the treasure’s rightful owner. Past owners of the property are likely to come forth as well.   

There are other kinds of accidental treasures as well—when a purchased item, for example, turns out to be worth more than anyone expected. Our second lesson will explore how we disentangle competing claims in these kinds of situations.   

I look forward to seeing you in class this week.

1 comment:

  1. Biblical Times

    Matrilineal descent, the passing down of a child's Jewish identity via the mother, is not a biblical principle. In biblical times, many Jewish men married non-Jews, and their children's status was determined by the father's religion.

    According to Professor Shaye Cohen of Brown University:
    "Numerous Israelites heroes and kings married foreign women: for example, Judah married a Canaanite, Joseph an Egyptian, Moses a Midianite and an Ethiopian, David a Philistine, and Solomon women of every description. By her marriage with an Israelite man a foreign women joined the clan, people, and religion of her husband. It never occurred to anyone in pre-exilic times to argue that such marriages were null and void, that foreign women must "convert" to Judaism, or that the off-spring of the marriage were not Israelite if the women did not convert."

    Hey Rabbi,

    I don't know if the below link is working anymore so I will repost the my earlier comments.

    Hi rabbi,

    I actually am more convinced on the arguements for inheritance than this Talmudic interpretation. It seems that the commentator on this one blew it or purposely twisted the interpretation for some reason. According to all grammatical interpretation of the below text, unless the Hebrew is different, it is clear that the 'he' is the father-in-law or the patriarch of the other family, whether it is a son or daughter that is being married. I know this to be so because the Torah states "his son... his daughter... he will turn them away." It is not possible for the 'he' to be the son of the father-in-law because it makes no sense to the context of the prior sentence. Hence the assumption of an ommission that a Jew is only from the mother because only the daughter is mentioned is faulty (neither the daughter nor the son are mentioned only the grandfather). Therefore, both cases of intrermarriage are EQUALLY bad. I know this also because the Torah is full of wisdom and wisdom would not preach that only women can influence a child. Clearly, both parents will vary in their commitment to the children and their commitment to Judaism. The Torah also states that 'he' a male has the influence over the Jewish status. Why do we want to interpret with what the Torah didn't say, when it is clear what the Torah does say. Also why do we want to cause undue hardship to fellow Jews with this stretched argument? How many Jews have been unjustly cut off from their inheritance in Torah due to this twisting of words? I say a more absolute decision would be just and more true to Torah. Either all children of an intermarriage require conversion or none.

    Deuteronomy 7:3-4 states: "You shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughter to his son, and you shall not take his daughter for your son. For he will turn your son away from following Me, and they will worship the gods of others".

    The Talmud explains that in this verse "son" actually means grandson. Thus the meaning of the verse is as follows: in a case of intermarriage "He (the non-Jewish father) will turn your (grand)son away from following Me". The grandchild is called son (of the grandparents) because this child is still connected to the grandparents - he is still Jewish.


    I can even accept the argument for 'he' the grandfather (who infuences the non-Jewish mother or father) will turn the grand 'son' away from Judaism in either case of intermarriage.

    The argument for Jewish through the mother only is also problematic because it does not discourage as strongly the Jewish mother to avoid intermarriage. I've heard many Jewish women boast about there being nothing 'wrong' in a Jewish sense with intermarriage because their children will still be Jewish. In actuality the children of intermarriage regardless of whether the mother or father are Jewish frequently become Pareve (have no binding Jewish identity nor an inclination to be observant).