Sunday, February 19, 2012

Yiush Shelo M'Daat - The Movie

A few years ago, while I was teaching in Politz Day School, we were studying Eilu Metzios, one of the chapters of the Talmudic tractate, Bava Metzia, which deals with the laws of lost objects. One of the main issues discussed in this chapter is the concept of yi'ush shelo m'daas - "giving up hope (for regaining a lost object) without conscious intent." It's not a simple concept, especially for 12-13 year olds, and as it is a very long and complex discussion, it was important that the students properly understand the basic issues at the outset.

In a brainstorming session, the principal suggested that I make a little "movie" with the class, that would help them get all the details straight in their mind. I was very hesitant at first, as I had never done anything like this, but I agreed to try it out. So, after a little planning - mostly to figure out what I was capable of reasonably achieving without specialized software - this little video was the result. The initial video started right out from the story, but afterwards people wanted a version that could be used by the general public, so I added a two minute introduction.

It turned out that I had created a monster, as the video was a big hit within the school. The school arranged for me to show the video at the local JCC, and from there it went on to be shown at a local Jewish film festival. Not quite what I had expected when I made the silly thing.

The movie is a good example of what a person can do with a little creativity, even without specialized software. Unfortunately, as an educational technique, "movie making" is of limited utility. Not every topic lends itself well to the approach, and if you do it too often it loses much of its novelty (which is its main appeal).

(For those who are familiar with the Talmudic discussion, it should be noted that the conclusion is greatly oversimplified. In reality, the halacha would play out almost exactly the opposite from what happens in the film. According to the opinion that yi'ush shelo m'daas is yi'ush, the court would, in most cases, require the item to be returned to the original owner based on the principle of lifnim m'shuras hadin (which is often enforceable in hashovas aveida cases). According to the opinion that yi'ush shelo m'daas is not yi'ush, the court would generally not be able to return the lost objects to the original owner for the simple reason that he can not prove that he is, in fact, the owner. (If he could, then there would be no issue of yi'ush shelo m'daas in the first place.) Rather, the finder would have to hold the object as an agent of the original owner until such evidence is provided. The only way this could realistically happen would be if there had been witnesses to the original loss that the owner had been unaware of. In short, it's a complicated topic.)

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