The Mishnah in Baba Metzia (1:4) says: “If someone sees an object and falls upon and someone else comes and seizes it, he that seizes it has acquired it”.
The Gemara on the Mishnah (10a) introduces a concept known as “Kinyan Dalet Amot” and says as follows: Reish Lakish said in the name of Abba Kohen Bardela – “The four cubits of a person acquire for him in any place, the Rabbis made an enactment so that people will not come to fight”. Rashi explains this to mean that if a person has an object within four amot of his vicinity, the Rabbis made an enactment that no one else can seize it for himself.
After a short discussion, the Gemara (10b) then asks a question from our Mishnah. If the four amot of a person can acquire for him, why does the person who falls upon an object not acquire it through his four amot? Why does it belong to the other person who picks it up?
The first answer that the Gemara brings is that since the first person fell upon the object, he shows that he only wanted to acquire it by falling upon it and not through his four amot. The Gemara brings a second answer in the name of Rav Sheshet, which is that the Rabbis only enacted Kinyan Dalet Amot in a side area (Simta) and not in a public area, which is the case in the Mishnah.
Rashi explains that since there are many people present in a public area, a person does not have his own four amot. Therefore, the Rabbis did not enact Kinyan Dalet Amot in a public area. It seems that according to Rashi, since the entire reason for Kinyan Dalet Amot is so that people will not come to fight, the Rabbis did not enact it in an area with many people since it will cause them to fight even more. (The Meiri says this more explicitly.) According to Rashi, the reason that people will not come to fight is not only the motivation, but also the nature of the enactment.
Alternatively, one could explain this Gemara based on a previous section in the Gemara, that Kinyan Dalet Amot does not work within someone else’s property, since he cannot “make it into his courtyard” (10b). One could say that here too, he cannot make a public domain into his own courtyard since he does not control the area. According to this understanding, the reason that “people will not come to fight” is only the reason for the enactment, but its nature is a rabbinic version of a Kinyan Chatzer (acquisition of one’s courtyard).
The Gemara in Gittin 78b seems to discuss a case where Kinyan Dalet Amot is effective even in a public domain. The Tosafot there attempt to resolve that Gemara with our Gemara, which says that it is not effective in a public domain. They bring two suggestions: One suggestion is that the Gemara in Gittin is really just discussing a side area and not a public domain. The other suggestion is that in a situation where one is able to guard the object, then Kinyan Dalet Amot is effective even in a public domain. According to the latter suggestion, it would seem that the nature of Kinyan Dalet Amot is a rabbinical version of a Kinyan Chatzer.
Several Rishonim on our Gemara ask a particular question: if Kinyan Dalet Amot works in a side area, why is it that when one is acquiring an object from someone else, he must drag it into the side area (Kinyan Meshichah); why does he not acquire it through his four amot? The Tosafot Rid answers that Kinyan Dalet Amot can only be used to acquire an ownerless object (Hefker) and not an object that someone else is giving him, since people will only fight over an ownerless object and that is the reason that the enactment was made. This implies that the nature of the enactment is merely a decree so that people will not come to fight. On the other hand the Nimukei Yosef says that Kinyan Dalet Amot also can also acquire an object from someone else; only that in such a case, the object must be placed within the acquirer’s four amot. In a situation where the object was there first, then Kinyan Dalet Amot does not work and Meshichah is required. This is because the space where the object sits is considered to belong to the current owner of the object and not to the acquirer. This implies that the nature of Kinyan Dalet Amot is a rabbinic version of a Kinyan Chatzer and not so that people will not come to fight. The Ramban on daf 10a also says that Kinyan Dalet Amot can be used to acquire an object from someone else since “the Rabbis equated it to his courtyard”.
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