QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that a Talmid Chacham is permitted to alter the truth when someone asks him about his host. RASHI explains that this means that if his host treated him hospitably, it is proper for him to say that he was not treated hospitably so that the host should not be overburdened with unwanted guests.
Why is a person (a Talmid Chacham, no less) permitted to speak derogatorily about his host? Why is that not Lashon ha'Ra?
(a) Apparently, since it is in the host's best interest for the Talmid Chacham to speak about him this way, the host wants the Talmid Chacham to say that he was not a good host. Thus, the Talmid Chacham's words are not considered Lashon ha'Ra.
(b) The MAHARSHA explains based on the ARUCH that in all three cases in which a Talmid Chacham is permitted to alter the truth, he still is not permitted to lie explicitly and give a false answer to a question. Rather, he is allowed to respond "I do not know" instead of revealing the truth. When the Gemara says that a Talmid Chacham may alter the truth with regard to his host, it means that when he is asked where he will stay tonight, he is permitted to say that he does not know, even though he does know where he will stay. This is permitted in order to prevent people from sneaking in to his room and stealing things from him, as the Gemara says in Chulin (127a).
(c) The RAMBAM writes that a Talmid Chacham should say that he was hosted by a different person instead of revealing the identity of his host.
However, although this will protect the privacy of the true host, it will be detrimental to the person who he claims was his host! Why is he permitted to do this?
HE'OROS B'MASECHES BAVA METZIA answers that the Talmid Chacham mentions the name of a person whom he is certain that others will not want, or be able, to visit. Alternatively, the Gemara is concerned only that the true host will be overburdened by a flow of guests, but no one is overburdened by only one guest. Hence, when he claims that someone else was his host, the Talmid Chacham merely causes that person to receive a single guest, and not a second guest. Thus, the second person will not be unduly burdened.
QUESTION: Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar in the Mishnah (21a) teaches that when one finds a brand new item, he does not have to announce it if it has no Siman, because no one -- not even a Talmid Chacham -- will be able to identify it through Tevi'us Ayin. The Beraisa adds that if the new utensil has been used long enough for a Talmid Chacham to have Tevi'us Ayin in it, then the finder is required to announce it.
Why should the finder be required to announce the find? Why should he suspect that the item belongs to a Talmid Chacham? If Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar means that the finder is always obligated to announce a find that has no Siman because its owner may be a Talmid Chacham, then why is it not necessary to announce any of the objects described in the Mishnah (21a) which the finder may keep because they have no Siman?
(a) TOSFOS (DH u'Modeh) and the RAMBAN explain that even a Talmid Chacham cannot have Tevi'us Ayin for food items. (Perhaps the same applies to raw materials such as Gizei Tzemer and Pishtan, and to money, which constantly changes hands.)
(b) Tosfos and the Ramban add that according to Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar, the finder is required to announce the object only when it was found in an area frequented by Talmidei Chachamim (such as a Beis Midrash).
The RITVA and TOSFOS HA'ROSH add that if the finder saw a Talmid Chacham lose the item (but he did not notice exactly who it was), then he is obligated to announce it.
The SHITAH MEKUBETZES cites the RASH of VIDASH who adds that if the object that was found is a Sefer or another object normally owned by Talmidei Chachamim, then the finder must announce it.
(c) The RA'AVAD (cited by the Shitah Mekubetzes) maintains that a person indeed must announce every object that he finds that has no Siman. However, it is not necessary to announce it in the same manner that he announces an object that has a Siman. It is sufficient for the finder to announce the object only two or three times in places frequented by Talmidei Chachamim (regardless of where it was found).
QUESTION: The Beraisa teaches that if a person finds a rod that holds needles or a rope that holds axes (neither of which have a Siman), he does not have to announce his find and he may keep the object (when there are a standard number of needles or axes attached to it; TOSFOS SHANTZ). However, if he finds two or more such rods or ropes, then he must announce them because the number of rods or ropes that he finds is considered a Siman. It is clear from the Beraisa that even two such items is considered an identifying Siman.
How can this be reconciled with the Gemara earlier (20b)? The Gemara earlier rules that when a person finds two Shtaros bound together, the number is not a Siman because when the finder announces that he found "Shtaros" (documents), everyone knows that the minimum number that he could have found is two, and therefore anyone will be able to claim the items and say that two of them were lost (see RASHI to 20b, DH Shtarei). (RITVA)
(a) The TOSFOS SHANTZ (cited by the Shitah Mekubetzes) and the RITVA answer that when the finder announces that he found an object, he does not mention the rods or ropes but he simply says that he found needles or axes. If the owner says that there were two of them, it indeed is not a Siman. If, however, he says that there were two rods of needles or two ropes of axes, then it is a Siman.
(b) The SHITAH MEKUBETZES cites the "SHITAH" who points out that the ARUCH (Erech Bad) and the RAMBAM (Hilchos Gezeilah v'Aveidah 16:1) seem to understand the Beraisa differently. They explain that if a rod is found that contains a single needle, then it is not a Siman, but if the rod contains two needles, then it is a Siman. They apparently maintain that there is no standard number of needles per rod or axes per rope. Rather, as long as there is more than one needle or axe, the number of needles or axes is considered a Siman. The "Shitah" explains that according to this explanation, the finder announces merely that he found a rod for needles or a rope for axes, and if the claimant tells him the number of needles or axes that are on it, this is considered a Siman.
According to this explanation, this case is not comparable to the case of a person who announces that he found "Shtaros." In the case of the Shtaros, the announcement itself indicates that more than one Shtar was found. In the case of the needles or axes, however, the finder's announcement gives no indication that he found more than one needle or axe.