As we learned on yesterday’s daf Abaye and Rava disagree about a very basic question. Abaye rules that when someone performs an action that is forbidden by the Torah, that action takes effect; Rava argues that a forbidden action cannot be meaningful from the perspective of Jewish law.
Today’s daf continues with a list of examples of forbidden acts that are performed and whose consequences – or lack of such – are brought to support either Abaye or Rava. One such example is a case of taking a mashkon – a pledge or collaterol – for a loan. The Gemara teaches:
But is there not the case of one who takes the pledge, concerning which the Divine Law says: “You shall not go into his house to fetch his pledge” ( 24:10) and we have learned: ‘He – the creditor – returns the mattress at night and the plow in the day’?
This law applies even if he took the pledge without the warrant of the court. The Gemara suggests that this refutes Rava, for from this we see that a prohibited act is valid, for otherwise the pledge would not be the creditor’s at all and he would have to restore the mattress even in the day and the plow at night. Rava responds that in this case the language of the Torah indicates that the pledge must be returned as necessary, which implies that in this case the forbidden action does take effect.
The plow was a multifunctional tool in ancient agriculture, as it served to prepare the ground prior to seeding, as well as during later stages of growth. During Talmudic times, the plow was made of a wooden handle with an iron blade attached to it. Aside from the blade, other attachments were fastened onto the handle both to assist in breaking up the ground and to seed the earth. For this reason the plow was an indispensible tool for a poor worker, which is why the Torah required that it be returned by the creditor during the day.