Thursday, 30 June 2016

Bava Kamma 30: Damages from Fertilizer-in-the-Making in the Public Domain

Today's daf shares two Mishnayot.  The first teaches that one who pours water in the public domain that causes damage to another person is liable to pay for his damage.  Similarly, a person is liable if he conceals a thorn or a piece of glass in a wall that is adjacent to the public domain, or if he puts up a fence that falls into the public domain and injures someone.

The rabbis have lots and lots of questions.  Was the person injured by the water or by the ground?  Is mud the same thing as water? Was it the rainy season?  Or was the water absorbed into the ground?  We are reminded that even in the rainy season when people are permitted to flush out their covered cisterns of water, now putrid after the summer months, they are liable if that water causes an injury to someone in the public domain.

As for the dangerous items found in a person's wall, the rabbis wonder about their concealment.  Was an effort made to protect people from injury?  Certainly we know that it is not the nature of people to rub themselves up against walls.  But was the wall stable?  Can we understand this better by remembering that a person who uses another person's bucket to cover up a pit in the ground is liable if the person who owns the bucket removes it and takes it back?  What about the knowledge that pious people were known to bury potentially dangerous objects at least three handbreadths under a field to ensure that the plow would not be obstructed?  Other examples of pious practices are shared, too.

Our second Mishna teaches us that a person who brings straw or hay (to be trampled on and then used as fertilizer) into the public domain is liable if someone is injured by those items.  And the person who takes possession of those items acquires them — they are considered to be ownerless once in the public domain.  Same goes for one who turns over dung in the public domain — any damages incurred are to be paid by the person who turns the dung.

The rabbis debate whether or not a person is actually liable for something that does not belong to him any longer.  This is the case in other circumstances.  But hay and straw is slippery, so perhaps this ordinance was based on the practical need for people to take responsibility for the amount of their own property that they put into the street.

Should this Mishna be informed by our understandings of what is done in the case of a robbery?  Is it stealing to take something that is ownerless?  What about taking something that another person is responsible for should damages be incurred?  Perhaps this Mishna should be informed by laws regarding loans: charges for the principal and interest.  If we erase the interest, should we erase damages done in this case?  The rabbis note that in this case it is the principal that causes the damages.  The rabbis seem to be uncomfortable comparing this action with robbery.

In the end, the rabbis make an interesting ruling.  The halacha suggests that people should not take these items, like straw or hay, from the public domain.  If they do, and whether or not they should at all is disputed, they take possession only of the value of the items' enhancements rather than their actual value.  Further, this is the halacha, but it should not be made a public ruling.  Why not?  Because a person who asks a rabbi whether or not he is permitted to take the straw should be denied.  Only someone who already understands the halacha should be permitted to take the straw.  A classic case of undemocratic rule!  But perhaps a ruling that would keep people 'in line'.  And that is always the issue that arises in a democratic state: do the people know enough to be trusted?

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Bava Kamma 29: Leaving Hazardous Objects in the Road

In their conversation about who is responsible when a rock, a knife, or a load is left in the street, the rabbis discuss stumbling.  A person might stumble over one of these objects, then fall, then assess injuries.  Did the injuries come from the stumble, which is the responsibility of the owner?  Did they come from the fall, which is the fault of one's own body?  Or did they come from the result of the fall - for example, being cut by shards of glass that came from the jug which shattered when the person stumbled?

Is a person who stumbles negligent?  The rabbis consider a person who leaves a hazardous object in the public domain liable in the category of pit.  One of the examples they quote comes from a Mishna that we will cover in less than two weeks (Bava Kamma:30).  It says that if someone turns dung in the road (ie. the public domain), they are liable for any damage that is caused by their action.

What I want to know is: what does it mean to "turn" dung?  Is this about drying dung for other uses?  Is this about hiding dung where a person might step on it?  We are speaking about animal dung, right? Our notes don't provide us with any further information about this particular example.

The rabbis ask further questions: did the person intend to acquire something when they were injured? How deep was the pit that was dug?

One of the arguments pits Rabbi Yochanan against the other rabbis of the Gemara.  Rabbi Yochanan believes that a person who puts up hazardous material in a public place is liable for injuries incurred, for example someone harmed by a fence with thorns in the public domain.  Rabbi Yochanan also believes that a person who renounces their ownership of a hazardous item in the public is liable.  Rav Acha ben Ika disagrees.  He asserts that it is atypical behaviour for a person to rub him/herself up against a wall, and so the owner of the fence is not liable for damages incurred in such an action.

Our daf ends with a discussion about whether it could have been someone other than Rav Yochanan who offered the more stringent rungs.  The rabbis determine that Rav Yochanan could have been referring to what is halacha in the public and in the private domains.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Bava Kamma 28: Taking the Law Into Our Own Hands

A brief blog on an interesting daf:

The rabbis consider when people are permitted to take action on a sin that is happening in front of them and when the court system must be used.   In today's daf, the rabbis do this by considering proofs that are supportive and contradictory.  The first is about a person who breaks jugs of wine and oil on their way in and out of a house.  But is this an ordinary case, or is this the case of one's slave who is also a thief?  The rabbis discuss this case alongside Reuven and Shimon's jugs that are broken accidentally.  As well, the woman who grabs a man's genitals is said to "have her hand cut off" - the rabbis take this to mean that she will pay a fine for her action.

The next case discussed is one where a field is overtaken by authorities and a path is carved into one's field.  The owner should be allowed to hit the trespassers with a stick.  Can't he be given his land back?  Well, the path might be crooked.  And a public path should not be damaged.  So perhaps he cannot take the law into his own hands in this case.

What about a case where a man protects the parts of his land that are not intended to be used for pe'a?  Is he permitted to hit those people with a stick?  The rabbis discuss the possibilities of vigilante justice in this case as well.

Our daf ends with a discussion about who is liable and for how much when a rock, a knife or a load is left on a road.  If an animal or a person should be damaged by these things, the owner of the objects is liable according to the laws of pit.  Further, if those things are damaged in the accident, the one who does damage is liable according to the rules of pit as well.

Bava Kamma seems to be a combination of very simple rules* and very complex examples.  I suppose that is how law works in real life - the instrument is blunt, but the cases are very specific.  The trick to finding any sort of 'justice' is to creatively apply the blunt laws as thoughtfully as possible to each individual case. 

*In no way do I mean to suggest that I actually understand these rules!  Instead I would posit that it is possible for me to learn these rules if I truly study.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Bava Kamma 27: Who Is Responsible for the Broken Jug in the Road? The Broken Person in the Road?

Isn't it wonderful when the rabbis share examples that resemble some sort of Talmudic pornography? In an effort to understand who is liable for which/how much in accidental damages, the rabbis have us picture a man falling from a rooftop and entering a woman.  He wouldn't pay for her humiliation because his fall was unintentional.  But this would be an act of betrothal, too.  The rabbis even speak of a woman grabbing a man's member (Deuteronomy 25:11) during a fight between that man and her husband.  She would be liable for humiliation in that case, though humiliation was not intended. Before ending Perek I, the rabbis continue to speak of cases where people accidentally kill others when they had intended something less serious.

Perek II begins with a short, new Mishna.  It teaches that if a person leaves a kad, a smaller jug, in the street and another person trips over it and breaks it, that person is not liable for the cost of the damaged kad. If the person who tripped was injured in that process, the owner of the chavit, a larger jug, is liable for medical and other costs.  The Gemara discusses the general interchangeability of these two terms for 'jug'. 

The Gemara wonders why a person is not responsible for watching where we walk. Rav suggests that perhaps we are discussing a road filled with barrels that are impossible to avoid.  Perhaps it was dark, suggests Shmuel.  Perhaps the jug was placed at the corner of the road where it could not be easily seen, suggests Rav Yochanan.  We are told of cases in Neharde'a and Pumbedita where people tripped over jugs in the road but were liable to pay for their damage (by Shmuel and by Rava). 

Rav Chisda asked Rav Nachman about the fine incurred for humiliation when one is hit by a hoe.  He knew that other fines were in place: three sela for kneeing, five for kicking and thirteen for punching. But he knew of a person who was hit with a hoe when he was taking water from the communal cistern on a day which was not his.  The thief sued for damages.  The response?  He should have been hit one hundred times!  When a theft is in progress, one may harm another person to protect oneself from losses.  Rav Nachman believes that a person may take justice into their own hands whenever necessary.  Rav Yehuda believes that one can take justice into their own hands only in cases of imminent loss or danger.

Rav Kahana reminds them of Ben Bag Bag's words: don't enter someone's home secretly to take what is yours; you might be mistaken for a thief.  Instead, break his teeth (take it by force) and say, I'm taking what is mine.

Interesting lessons on ancient rules of justice.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Bava Kamma 26: We Are Always Responsible For Our Behaviour

Another truncated blog.  Here's what called out to me.

We have been discussing oxen that do damage.  The ox in question is a person's property.  The rabbis decided that an ox could be tam or mu'ad.  And how would we know when an ox is mu'ad?  Perhaps it has gored three times in one day, or perhaps three times over three days.  When does that ox become tam again?  Perhaps when it has not gored for a period of time under certain conditions - one of those conditions includes when it is petted by children and it does not gore.  I would not be the parent holding my ox to that particular test!

But all of this is about the ox as one's property.  What about when we cause the damage ourselves?  The rabbis teach that we are always mu'ad: we are liable for the damage that we do to others.  What about what we do when we are drunk?  well, say the rabbis, we put ourselves in the situation that allowed us to become drunk, and so we are responsible for the damages that we have done in that state.  

But what about when we are asleep?  This seems to be an exception.  Unless of course we fall asleep within the range of things that we could damage.  In that case, we are fully responsible for damages that we cause when we are asleep.  But what if we ensure that there is nothing we could damage that is close to us while we sleep?  The rabbis say that in that case, we are not responsible for those damages.  They use the example of a person lying beside us while we are asleep.  If we damage that person, we are not legally liable for the damages caused.

Modern society could learn a lot from these ideas.  When we set ourselves up to damage others, we are responsible for the damage that occurs.  That means that when we drive while drunk and we kill someone, we are liable for murder.  That means that if we get drunk and sexually assault someone, we are liable for rape.  And that means that if we get drunk and hurt our families, we are responsible for the damage that has been caused as if we had said and done those things when we were sober.

Bava Kamma 25: Kal V'Chomer; Natural Consequences

A brief blog today on just one part of our daf.  The rabbis consider the principle of kal v'chomer,  light and heavy.  This is also known as 'din', or foregone conclusion.  Kal v'chomer refers to the assumption that something greater exists because something lesser exists.  For example, if a person can lift 200 pounds, s/he can lift 150 pounds.

This concept is used to further our understanding of the laws about damages done by oxen in the private and/or the public domain. The rabbis compare the punishment for damages with Miram's punishment for speaking ill of her brother Moshe.  She was sent from the community for seven days, because she was stricken with tzora'at.   Our notes teach that G-d banished her for seven days, but that otherwise she would have been embarrassed by her father for seven days.  

The notion of being ostracized physically as a punishment is a particularly interesting concept to me. The holiday of Yom Kipur suggests that a person who does not participate with their community is going to die.   What does it mean to be written in G-d's book of death?  Does it mean that we will physically die?  Or will we spiritually die; losing our connection with G-d when we do not practice the rituals that we are supposed to practice?  Or will we die because we have cut ourselves out of our communities?  Have we punished and ostracized ourselves?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Bava Kamma 23: Is the Mouth of a Cow Like the Courtyard of an Injured Party?

The rabbis discuss a fire that destroys a courtyard.  In some instances, it is as if this is similar to his arrows.  In other instances, it is as if his arrows are depleted - he caused the fire within his own courtyard, but he was not responsible for the fire in a neighbouring courtyard.  Continuing their discussion of a dog who steals cake with a hot coal stuck to it which starts a fire in a stack of grain, the rabbis consider unusual iterations of that case.  One detail is whether or not the damaged items were properly safeguarded against fire.

This leads the rabbis to a discussion of how "the mouth of a cow is like the courtyard of an injured party".  In such a case, the owner of the dog who sets fire to the grain can say, "What is your cake doing in my dog's mouth?"  The dog's mouth is the property of its owner, and the owner is not liable for damage done to another person's property while that property is in the owner's domain.  If the animal caused damage by rubbing itself on the owner's property, damages can be paid.  

The example of a hand is shared: if a person is damaged by the teeth of an animal on their own property, but the the person's hand never enters the dog's mouth, the owner of the dog is not liable.  Only if the damage is done inside the dog's mouth is the owner liable; the dog's mouth is the dog owner's property and thus damage is done on his property.

The rabbis discuss incitement.  If one incites a snake and the snake bites, he is liable to pay the damages.  This may not be the owner of the snake but any other person.  The rabbis believe that there are certain actions that animals do that cannot be trained away.  An animal is not stoned, otherwise killed or punished for actions that it must perform.  Animals cannot be slaughtered to prevent them from damaging people or things.  

Our daf ends with a new Mishna about an ox that is innocuous, tam, or forewarned, mu'ad.  Rabbi Yehuda says that an ox is mu'ad if witnesses say that it gored on three days and it becomes tam again when it does not gore for three consecutive days.  Rabbi Meir says that it is mu'ad if it gores on any three days and that is is tam again when children can pet it and play with it without being gored.

The Gemara begins its exploration of this Mishna by discussing the notion of days.  What are these consecutive days?  What does 'yesterday' or 'the day before yesterday' refer to?  And what does this suggest about an owner who has not secured his ox even after it has gored once?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Bava Kamma 22: Causing Damage "Like His Arrows"

Our previous case example: a dog steals a cake with a coal still attached to it and eats the cake on a stack of grain.  The coal ignites the grain.  Who is liable?  The owner of the dog is liable for full damages of the cake, and for half-damages for the stack of grain.  The rabbis continue to discuss why this is the case.  Rabbi Yochanan argues that the cake is like his arrows.  This means that it is as if the owner of the dog shot an arrow without considering the damage it might cause when it lands.  The dog was allowed to steal the cake and the fire that ensued was indirectly caused by the owner's negligence regarding his/her dog.  

The fire caused by the coal is similar to damage caused by pebbles (which are thrown and cause damage inadvertently when someone walks on the road).  Thus the owner pays half-damages for the grain, just like in cases of pebbles.  The rabbis do consider whether fire is a physical substance similar to other substances.  Whether or not it is a tangible substance, it causes damage.

The Gemara explores another example.  In this case, a camel is carrying flax.  Its owner stops at a store, and the camel's flax catches fire from the storeowner's lamp. The flax then sets the store aflame. Is the camel's owner liable for damages to the store?  Is the storeowner liable for damage to the flax?   Does it matter if the entire store was lit at once, or whether the camel's flax lit the store on fire spot by spot?  What if the camel had stopped to urinate - how could the camel's owner be held liable if he could not move the camel?  The rabbis even consider whether the lamp was inside the store or outside of the store; whether the candles were part of the mitzvah of Chanukah or not.  

Amud (b) adds a disturbing caveat to this case.  What if a goat were tied to the camel, too, and the goat was killed by the fire?  What if a Canaanite slave was standing by the camel and he too was killed by this fire?  Who is liable? Why?

The rabbis remind us that if the camel's owner is liable for the death of the Canaanite slave, he is not liable for damages to the store nor to the flax.  Why not?  Because a greater consequence nullifies lesser consequences.  Causing the death of a Canaanite slave is punishable by the death penalty.  Thus any other damages are thought to be less serious and they are nullified.

If a person gives an "imbecile", a minor, or a "deaf-mute" the tools with which to start a fire, s/he is liable for any ensuing damages.  Again, this is because it is like one's arrows.  Further, we learn that such a person is exempt from responsibility "according to human laws but is liable according to the laws of Heaven".  Rashi takes this to mean that this person cannot be punished by enforcing a fine or seizing property.  However, he will be punished by G-d, and that means that he should be concerned about that punishment and he should be making amends with those people he has harmed.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Bava Kamma 21: More Animal Behaviour

The rabbis discuss the differences between a house that is lived in and safeguarded and a house that has been left empty.  I wonder about squatters in the times of the Talmud.  Were there people who were homeless, perhaps those without family and its protection, who would find empty courtyards and buildings to live in?  Would these be the same people who collected food from pe'a?  Were the rabbis attempting to create a social safety net for those at greatest risk without imposing upon those who would make money from their spaces - is that why they seem to insist that an unused courtyard/home not intended for renting is permitted for squatting?

We are told the story of Rav Nachman's confiscation of a mansion. The mansion was built atop a garbage heap used by orphans.  The orphans were paid by Carmanian people who also used that land.  When the orphans were evicted for the building of that mansion, they lost their income. Rav Nachman confiscated the mansion from its owner when he refused to recompense the orphans for their loss.

The Gemara wonders when an animal's actions in the public domain create a situation where damages should be paid.  What if a cow is in the public domain but turns its head to eat from someone's private domain?  Does it matter where the body of the cow is placed?  Should we be considering the damage done by the cow or the benefit derived by the cow?  Or both?

A new Mishna tells us that the owner of a dog or a goat who jump from a rooftop and break a vessel is responsible for full damages, for animals are considered forewarned regarding jumping.  If a dog grabs a cake hot from the oven with a coal stuck to it and takes it to a stack of grain to eat it, igniting the grain, the animal's owner is liable to pay full damages for the cake and half damages for the destroyed grain.

Why is the owner of an animal that jumps from a roof liable to pay damages? Because this is typical behaviour, and the owner's neglect led to this accident.  If a dog or a goat jump from below up to something and break a vessel, the owner is not liable because this is unusual behaviour.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Bava Kamma 20: Blackened Walls Means Rent is Paid

Amud (a) of today's daf provides us with a number of examples of animals causing damage to other peoples' properties.  The examples sound similar to cases that might be brought to court today: a goat climbs on a barrel to get a turnip; the owner of the goat is liable for half of the cost of the barrel in addition to the turnip.  And so we also learn about Eating - climbing a barrel is not typical behaviour except when it comes to a goat's appetite.  And damages that involve Eating incur liability of half of the damages incurred.  

Other examples include cases that involve Eating and Goring and subcategories of each.  Amud (a) ends with a discussion about squatters.  What is done when a person lives in another person's courtyard without paying rent?  The Gemara wonders: does the owner actually suffer a loss if the property wouldn't have been rented out otherwise?  And does it matter that the squatter derives benefit from the owner's property?  And what if the squatter is an animal?  And what if the courtyard is deemed ownerless?

Amud (b) reminds me of Masechet Eruvin, where we discuss the boundaries of a home and measures of the inner and outer portions of the home. The Gemara considers upper and lower stories of a home, and when a squatter must pay rent.  

We learn that the rabbis value any kind of damage done to a home because someone has lived in that home. They refer to "the blackening of the walls" of a home; the decrease in a home's value because it has been lived in.  However, if a person squats in a courtyard that was not meant to be rented out and the owner did not know about the squatter, rent is not owed.  Thus there is also a valuing of shelter for those who cannot find even basic shelter of their own.  Our daf ends with a conversation about consecrated beams or other parts of a property.  When an item is sacred, of course, that item must be treated with greater honour.

Does "blackening of the walls" refer to regular use of a home?  Is this a reference to stains from fire burning within the home?  Or something else; dirt from the floor?  Dirt from people's hands or clothing rubbing on the walls?

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Bava Kamma 19: Typical and Atypical Behaviours and Related Damages

Are damages done by pebbles, tzrorot, unavoidable?  Or do they require a forewarning, ada'ah?  The answer to this question requires philosophical inquiry.  Sumachos argued that the action or the motion created by the pebble is simply an extension of the animal's own action.  It is the same thing to damage a vessel with ones foot or with a pebble kicked by one's foot.  This argument suggests that the rabbis understood the Newton's much later laws of thermodynamics, whereby energy cannot be created or destroyed; instead, it simply changes form.  If so, only half-damages are paid.  But if we understand this same action as a similar to Trampling, full damages would be paid.

Is damage caused by the force of a force of an animal the same thing as damage cased by the force of an animal?  Sumachos argues that damages caused by the force of a force of an animal are paid half of the damages incurred.  What about walking on a road where it is impossible to walk without forcing pebbles off of that road?  If those pebble do damage, does the animal's owner pay half-damages?  We are reminded that whether or not one pays half damages has nothing to do with whether or not damages are done in the public or private settings.  

A great set of questions:

  • what if an animal causes damages by wagging its tail?  This is a typical behaviour and thus the owner would half damages for damage done
  • does that mean that an owner should hold the tail - or for that matter, the horn - of his animal to prevent damage?  Goring is different; it is an atypical behaviour
  • what if an animal causes damage by its erect penis knocking something over?  This is similar to goring rather than trampling or eating.  Trampling must be a typical behaviour, and this behaviour is only done when the animal is in heat. Eating is a pleasurable behaviour, and the animal derives no pleasure from this act; it is biological arousal.   This act is similar to goring.
Before beginning a new Mishna, we learn a bit more about yesterday's chicken: when a string is tied to the leg of a chicken and that string causes damage to another's property, what is paid in damages?  the rabbis teach that if the chicken became entangled in the string, the owner should pay half-damages in the category of Pit.  If the owner tied the string to the chicken, the owner pays full damages in the category of Pit.  Why pit? Because the owner failed to safeguard the 'pit'.  This sort of neglect leads to the payment of full damages.

A new Mishna teaches us about 'tooth' in the category of Eating.  An animal that eats food need not be forewarned; this is its nature.  But an animal that eats clothing or vessels - or eats in the public domain, the rules are different.  If the animal is deriving pleasure from eating, its owner pays both for the cost of the food eaten and for the benefit (pleasure) that that food gave to the animal.

The Gemara discusses when an owner should pay full damages and when he should pay half damages for what his animal eats.  We are told that when an animal is on the edge of the public sphere, half damages are paid.  When an animal eats at the entrance of a store, full damages are paid.  And when an animal eats from inside of a store, payment is made for the benefit that the animal derived.  The rabbis question what is typical and what is atypical behaviour for an animal and how that might affect payment.  Is it typical for a dog to eat oil?  For a donkey to eat bread and then break the bread basket?  Finally, is it typical for a domesticated animal to eat meat?  Roasted meat?  While sitting at the dinner table?

Bava Kamma 18: A Dog with Dough and Coal; A Chicken with Pebbles and Excrement and Dough

Today's daf further explores the damages paid when an animal's actions indirectly cause the damage.  The rabbis debate a number of considerations:

  • does the action fall into the category of Eating, which means that it is pleasurable, usual behaviour? In this case, forewarning would not be necessary and the owner would pay only half damages from the body of the sold animal.
  • does the action fall into the category of Goring, which is the natural response of an animal in distress, and thus an owner should be forewarned once this has happened once?  In this case, full damages are paid from the owner's choice land.
  • does the action fall into the category of Trampling, which is usual behaviour in an animal and requires no forewarning?  This case would be like that of Eating.
Interesting examples are used for the rabbis' debate.  First, they suggest the case of a dog who grabs bread that has just been baked.  The bread still has a coal attached to it from its oven.  That coal, when taken to another setting, burns someone else's produce.  The Gemara explores many questions and their implications: is this an act of Eating?  Is this an act of Goring?  Is this a usual, predictable behaviour?  Is the owner of the dog liable equally for the loaf and for the destroyed produce?  And so on.

Another example tells us about chicken who run, sending pebbles flying which damage another object.  This example eventually becomes one about a chicken who leaves excrement on a loaf of bread or on dough.  Is it the nature of a chicken to leave excrement on dough if the chicken is not forced into a closed space with dough?  Should chickens be expected to do such things?

At the end of our daf, new examples are suggested.  The rabbis speak of a rooster, a horse or a donkey whose voices might break a vessel because of the power of the sound waves.  What if the animal has done something like this three times before?  Is the owner now fully responsible for the damages done by his/her chicken?

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Bava Kamma 16: Wild Animals

Tonight is one of those evenings that I wish I had more energy to put into this learning.  The rabbis discuss wild animals and how people might expect those animals to behave.  There are five types of animals that the rabbis name as needing no forewarning.  This means that these animals are never tam; they are always expected to follow their natures which will incur damages.  These are the wolf, lion, bear, leopard, bardelas and snake.  The Gemara wonders whether different actions done by these animals should fall under the categories of Eating or Goring, etc.  Different categories lead to different consequences for the animal and/or its owner.

In addition to a discussion of the hyena, which may or may not be dangerous to humans, the rabbis sneak in a fascinating comment.  Apparently, a male hyena becomes a demon. How? After seven years it become an insectivorous bat.  Seven years later, that bat becomes a herbivorous bat, which becomes a thistle after seven years.  Seven years later, the thistle becomes a briar, and seven years after that, the briar becomes a demon.

Similarly, a person's spine is said to become a snake after seven years.  However, this is only true for a person who does not bow in thanksgiving during the eighteenth blessing of the amidah.  

The rabbis offer no proof texts for these comments.  The closest thing to a proof text in our notes is a comment from Berachot that suggests we should bow our heads during the amidah like snakes.  Tosafot interprets further, saying that we will become like snakes if we do not pray in this way.

A new Mishna asks and answers one question: what is the difference in liability for an ox that is forewarned and an ox that is not forewarned?  The only answer, we are told, is that the owner of an ox that is forewarned pays half of the damages incurred from the sale of the body of the ox.  The owner of the ox that is not forewarned pays full damages from the sale of his "highest" land.

The Gemara asks about "highest" land. This is superior quality land, right?  The rabbis then tell a story about Hesekiah being buried with David and Solomon, in "the best land".  The Gemara continues to tell stories about the burial of king Asa, another king of Judea.  Jeremiah was accused of lying with a zonah, lying with a married woman.  The rabbis argue what this could mean - was the zona a pit?  Or a woman?  Were people simply trying to trap him?  The daf ends with the rabbis noting that king Hesekiah was honoured in his death.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Bava Kamma 15: Can Any Animal Be Tame?

Why does the Mishna say that women are included in the halachot of damages?  Proof texts note that women and men are both mentioned regarding punishments for theft (Numbers 5:16).  Further, Exodus (21:1) equates women and men in matters of civil law in the Torah, and Exodus (21:29) equalities women with men regarding all killings in the Torah.  The rabbis understand that men and not women are usually involved in business dealings.  But should there be special rules for women who are attempting to sustain themselves through business dealings?  Or do civil laws not apply to women after all, for women are not obliged to follow those halachot as are men?  The rabbis consider when men must pay a ransom compared with women.

How are the injured party and the person who did the damage both liable?  The rabbis consider an ox that is tam and an ox that is mu'ad.  Must all oxen be safeguarded? Is it not the nature of an ox to gore?  Even if an ox has never gored, it has never gored -- yet. Why should the fine be different for those who have been warned and those who have not been warned?  There is no such thing as an innocuous ox.  

The owner of an innocuous ox that gores is half of the damages paid from the proceeds of the sale of the ox's body.  The owner of a forewarned ox that gores is full damages paid from his superior-quality property.  Does this hold if a person admits that his ox caused the damage?  The rabbis try to compare this case to other cases, like when a person kills another person's Canaanite slave.  A principal is suggested:  Anyone who does not pay as much as the cost of that which he damaged does not pay based on his own admission.   

The rabbis discuss differences between what is paid in Eretz Yisrael and what is paid in Babylonia.  They  consider whether or not half the cost of damages is actually a fine.  And they compare unusual acts of damages to other unusual acts, like a cat eating a chicken or a dog who eats lambs.  This moves to a conversation about vicious pets.  We are not permitted to raise a vicious dog in our home, just like we cannot set up an unstable ladder in our home.  We samta, excommunicate the owner of a dangerous animal until he eliminates the danger.   

A new Mishna teaches that there are five things that an animal can perform twice and continue to be called innocuous  Further, there are five acts where a person is considered forewarned  even if the animal has never caused damage.  This would result in full payment of damages.  Animals who Gore - or push or bite or crouch, or kick - are considered to be innocuous.  Damage done with teeth are considered forewarned - eating, breaking items while walking.  Some animals are wild, and there are considered forewarned.  If these same animals are domesticated, they are not considered forewarned?  These are the wolf, lion, bear, leopard, bardelas.  The snake, however, is always considered to be forewarned, even if it is domesticated.  

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Bava Kamma 14: A Cow Damages a Talit and a Talit Damages a Cow

The rabbis walk us through a number of examples to elucidate their point: a borrower must have taken on the responsibility of safeguarding a lender's ox to be liable for any damage that that ox might cause.  Questions arise when a courtyard is owned by more than one person.  And whether full or partial payment are owed in these different situations is yet another consideration.  The Gemara is complicated.

We learn a new Mishna in amud (b):  When determining damages, monetary appraisal is used and money is paid before a court.  The testimony must be based on witnesses and those witnesses must be free and Jewish.  They can be women, too.  Damages can be paid both by the injured person and the person responsible for the damages.

What is monetary appraisal?  The  appraisal should be stated in monetary terms.  An example is shared where a cow injures a talit (also translated as a cloak); the talit gets wrapped in the cow's legs, causing it to trip and become injured.  Monetary appraisal focuses on the worth of each item first, the monetary damage done to each item, and then how much each cost offsets the other.

What does it mean that the items must be "worth money"?  The rabbis discuss the need for guarantees; items must not be subject to 'price fraud'.  What about slaves and documents? Rav Ashi says that things must be worth money but cannot actually BE money - and slaves and documents are movable property; they are money.  What about collecting from orphans?  The rabbis suggest that property must be collected while a person liable for damages is still alive.

What does it mean when the Mishna says, "before a court"?  Is it about the timing; when one presents before a court?  Is it reflecting the need for ordained judges? 

What does it mean when the Mishna states, "based on the testimony of witnesses?"  Does this exclude a person who pays a fine?  or who comes forward later?  Does this have to do with the clause about Jews and the exclusion of Gentiles?

This questioning will continue in tomorrow's daf.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Bava Kamma 13: Sacrificial Damages and Ownerless Damagers

The Gemara discusses animals intended for sacrifice.  Peace offerings, tithe offerings, first-born offerings.  Some of these animals are permitted to be redeemed and some are not, for they are sanctified from the time that they are in the womb.  Some animals are permitted to be sold and some are not - whether or not they are blemished, alive/slaughtered.  

So what is to be done when an animal that causes damage is the same animal intended for sacrifice?   Does it make a difference which type of offering is at hand?  What about whether or not the animal was tam, tame, or mu'ad, already violent and forewarned?  We know that sometimes damages can be paid through meat.  Is sacrificial meat treated in the same ways as unconsecrated meat?

The rabbis move their arguments in an interesting direction.  They compare different types of sacrifices and determine which parts of the animal are sacrificed.  If an animal did damage with parts of its body that would not be used as an offering, are those parts of its body permitted as payment?  What about the bread that accompanies a thanks-offering, for example? Are parts of the animal required as payment, or can the bread be used as payment for damages?

We learn that any payment of damages happens only in a situation where there is a clear which animal has done damage.  If two people each accuse the other's animal of injuring the other, neither can collect damages.  As well, the animal that has caused damage must have an owner at the time that it has caused damage and at the time that it is tried.  Is this a loophole?  Could the owner of a mu'ad ox that gores again then claim that his animal is now ownerless, thus erasing his culpability?  This is an important idea, especially because when an ox kills a person, both the ox and its owner are supposedly meant to be stoned to death.  The owner thus has opportunity to back away from full ownership - of the ox and of its crime.

The Gemara ends with a discussion about two shared owners of a fence in a courtyard.  Who is responsible if each of their animals might have damaged the fence?  The rabbis consider whether the actions of the animals fall into the categories of Eating, Trampling, or Goring.  They also wonder whether the specific wording of the mishna was used to include the cases of unpaid bailees, borrowers, paid bailees, renters, bandits, and others.  

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Bava Kamma 9: The Transfer of Ownership; Careful What You Say You'll Keep Safe

Amud (a) focuses on the transfer of land from one party to another.  What about claimants who appear after the land has already been inherited by two sons?  How should land be divided in different circumstances?  When can a person come forward as a claimant?  Who does the land belong to after an agreement has been reached but before money has been exchanged?

One process we learn about is walking the perimeter of the land.  This walk determines whether or not the land is as it was described.  Some rabbis assert that the walk itself is acceptance of the agreement. Others say that a bag of money must be exchanged at the end of the walk, which finalizes the sale of the land.  Interesting that the transfer of ownership is so often linked with a physical action.  The exchange of money could be a marker.  Or the trampling on land.  Or even to change the land in some way - to add to it - these actions symbolize a change in ownership when done in the proper time and place (of course walking around another person's land at any given time does not symbolize a transfer of ownership!).

The rabbi's conversation moves into payment above what something is worth.  They discuss enhancing mitzvot that involve money by paying more money.  One third on top of the basic cost for an item is agreed to be the preferred amount to give (and the rabbis do not decide whether this refers to one third according to the individual or one third according to the world).  A note teaches us that some rabbis believe that payment beyond what is expected and up to one third more will be repaid in the World-to-Come.  Even better, anything beyond one third will be repaid by HaShem in this lifetime.  Now that is encouragement to enhance a mitzvah!

A new Mishna teaches us that a person who agrees to guard something from damage is obligated to pay for that item if it is then damaged.  The rules are slightly different for consecrated items.  The Gemara immediately turns to exceptions: what if the person guarding is compromised (a minor, a woman, an 'imbecile')?  How can they be liable for those damages but not liable in other circumstance, like destruction based on fire?  How is damage to a pit or to an ox different from damage by fire?

The rabbis note that the typical manner of a covered pit is for the pit to become uncovered; the typical manner of a leashed ox is to find a way to release itself from the leash; the typical nature of an ember is to go out on its own.  It is only with the help of something or someone who fans the ember that the ember becomes a fire of its own.

Much of the beginning of Bava Kamma is concerned with the transfer of ownership.  Thankfully, what could be a very dry conversation becomes quite lively when questions like 'what is the nature of becoming?' are introduced.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Bava Kamma 8: Debt and Payment: Must We Follow Halacha?

We just learned that a person might have only intermediate and inferior quality land.  We were also exploring whether superior quality land was superior compared with itself or compared with land around the world.  Today's daf begins with the argument that a person who has only intermediate and inferior quality land proves that the quality of land is compared with that of the world.  The argument: if one has only two types of land, why not call it superior and intermediate quality?  We are introduced to a counterargument: perhaps his/her superior quality land was sold, leaving the intermediate quality land objectively judged as intermediate.  The rabbis continue to consider this question and eventually determine that Ulla is correct: a creditor can collect from inferior land as is dictated by Torah law.

It seems that debts travel with a person's property, even when that property is sold.  If a debtor sells his land, the creditor can approach the buyer and demand payment.  The rabbis explain what is done when a person sells his land to three people simultaneously; what to do when a buyer cannot cover the debt of the seller; why it is not sufficient to return a bill of sale, etc.  This system assumes that all of a person's debts are known publicly.  

We learn that orphans are not obliged to pay their father's debts, unlike children who have mothers who are living.  We also learn that liened property cannot be used to pay debts, whether it has been sold or it is a gift.

An interesting turn: people are permitted to go against the recommendations of the Sages.  If a person wishes to allow creditors or women to collect what is owned to them from intermediate instead of inferior land, that is permitted.  That person can say, "I do not want to avail myself of the financial benefit provided by an ordinance of the Sages".  This is a significant statement; the rabbis rarely encourage people to go against their ordinances. In fact, much argument in the Talmud revolves around the maintenance of rabbinically-based halacha.  Why is there leniency around this particular issue?

The Gemara goes on to describe complex cases where people might complain about payment that has been collected in this less conventional way.  People buy land without full knowledge of the history of the seller or the land; people sell property without guarantees.  Ultimately, people have grievances against each other.  

Hopefully we will learn soon whether or not the rabbis conclude this argument by insisting on following their suggestions or not.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Bava Kamma 7: Negotiating Superior Land; Maintaining Social Strata

The Gemara follows the rabbis' arguments regarding the payments of a debtor.  We have learned that damages are paid with a person's superior-quality, or best-quality land.  Land can also be categorized as intermediate quality or inferior quality.  In fact we learn that land is used only when payment through money is not possible.

But what if conditions make it difficult to sell one's land?  And what if the person receiving payment for damages would prefer the intermediate land -- but perhaps a bit more?  The rabbis teach us that land is generally priced at its highest in the month of Nisan, and at its lowest in the month of Tishrei.  This is because people would prefer to buy land that is about to yield a full crop.  In Tishrei, the land has missed its opportunity to be readied for harvesting the following year.  Is it reasonable to ask a person to see his/her land at such a low price?  And what if the land won't sell?  What if people mutually agree upon rules that are different from those set out by Torah law?

The rabbis think of everything.  Seriously, almost everything.  They create guidelines and rules to help people determine when to sell low, when to sell high, when to eat of the poor man's tithe because one is what today we call "house poor," and when a person should not take from that charitable offering.  They speak about how to appraise land, and whether it should be compared to other land belonging to the owner or to other fields in the world.  They consider whether or not an arrangement is truly the will of both parties, or whether something is being done against one's will.  They consider what to do if land has depreciated or appreciated in value and how debtors might consider the paths to their most sustainable futures.

It does seem like that there is an underlying bias toward keeping those with more means close to their money.  Those who are poor are poor, and they should be cared for, but no extra attempts should be made to help them become wealthy.  Certainly not wealthy enough to move into a different social class.  Similarly, the rabbis decided that ketubot are collected from inferior quality land.  Thus women who might have had the opportunity to rise in social status when divorced are not left bereft, but will continue to struggle with property that is worth little.

This makes sense.  In today's western world, we believe that anyone can do anything.  Success is about effort and some luck.  However, the rabbis wanted to maintain and not to disrupt the social strata of their world.  They believed that their interpretations of Torah would last across time and place, as Torah law should last across time and place.  Lauding the equalization of opportunities is a modern concept.  For much longer, human beings have  believed that we are born into our roles and that our success is in how we perform in those roles.

We learn that when a debtor has superior, intermediate and inferior quality land, damages are collected from the superior quality land, creditors collect from the intermediate quality land, and women collect their ketubot from the inferior quality land.  If the debtor has only superior and intermediate quality land, both creditors and ex-wives collect from the intermediate quality land.  If he has only intermediate and inferior quality land, damages and creditors use the intermediate quality land while women collect from inferior quality land.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Bava Kamma 6: Categories Determine Damages - Where Does Each Case of Damages Fit?

Punishments are halachically determined for every crime.  And each crime fits into one of the primary categories of damage.  To ensure that the appropriate punishment is meted out, the rabbis must ensure that each crime is placed in its proper category.

Today's daf offers numerous examples of damages.  The rabbis question whether each case belongs to the category of Ox, Pit, Maveh, Fire, or Man.   For example, if someone's property is left on the road and another person trips over it, the owner is responsible for damages.  If a person kicks the property - let's say it's a vessel - and it hits someone, damaging him or her, the 'hit by a moving object' puts damages in a different category.  And if the vessel comes to a stop and then someone trips over it and becomes hurt, damages fall under the category of Pit because the item is considered to be ownerless.

Each category represents qualities that seem almost personified.  Pit incorporates items put into motion by a person, as a person digs a pit and is then responsible for any damages that pit might cause.  Items that are put into motion on their own, causing damage as they go are in the category of Fire.  It is the nature of fire to travel with the wind, lighting things along its way.  

We learn a some fascinating information about ancient plumbing through a case example.  People have permission to open their gutters and release their sewage and water into the public domain only in the rainy season.  Even so, a person who slips and falls on that sewage may turn to the person who opened his/her gutters for full damages.  In the summer months, it was not permitted to empty one's gutters at all.  The rabbis ask: is the sewage ownerless?  Does permission make a difference regarding damages?  My own questions are not legal but practical: where and how was the sewage stored?  How were people able to tolerate the stench of sitting sewage over the summer months?

We learn more examples, including a tree that has fallen in the public domain.  We learn that people are given thirty days to address these damages.  Who should be safekeeping?  What is involved in the safekeeping of different items?  

The Gemara moves forward to explore what is meant by "of the best of his field" and "of the best of his vineyard".  Don't we take teruma from "the best"?  What else do we know about "the best" part of one's field?  Our daf ends with a description of a Treasurer taking one hundred dinars of one's superior quality land if the person should have no money.  A creditor and a Treasurer should be treated similarly, even though we know that Creditors do not often collect from superior but from intermediate quality land.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Bava Kamma 5: Reasons That These are the Four Categories of Damage

The Gemara continues to question Rabbi Oshaya's suggestion that there are not four but thirteen  primary sources of damage.  One way that the rabbis determine whether an action is a primary or secondary source of damage is through a related example.  The rabbis share what they have learned (from later in our Mishna, daf 33) about an innocuous, tam, ox.  If an otherwise tame ox kills a person, its owner may a fine from the body of the ox and not via their best quality land.  The rabbis take this as proof that a tam ox who kills a person is not a primary source of damage.

The Gemara considers all of Rabbi Oshaya's other suggestions similarly.  Thus rapists, seducers and defamers* all pay for their crimes - pain, humiliation, degradation - through fines and not through land.   Those who mix teruma with non-teruma, those who pour wine for idolatrous libations, and those who damage property in a way that is invisible but cause a change in its status also pay for their transgressions through fines.  However, the Sages instituted payment through land but only when the damage was unintentional and when the person who caused the damage was alive.

Rabbi Chiyya had suggested twenty-four primary sources. The Gemara walks through some of his examples as well. The rabbis suggest that defamers are included in this list only because they are usually included when discussing rapists and seducers.  A husband who defames his wife pays the fixed sum of one hundred silver shekels.  This does not meet the definition of a 'fine'.  Defaming is simply speaking.  Speech would have to be accompanied by an action to warrant a more serious consequence.  The rabbis suggest that a man might have had intercourse with his wife just before he defamed her.

We are again introduced to the rabbis' questions about distinctions between the four primary sources of damage.  They compare one to another: are Ox and Maveh similar because they both involve living spirits?  And because both of them derive other subcategories?  Is Fire different from the others because it does not involve a living spirit?  Do they all involve forewarning?  Is Goring superior to the others because it demonstrates blunt evidence of damage?

The Gemara suggests some firm distinctions:

  • Goring is present to distinguish between a tam animal and an animal that has been forewarned
  • Eating and Trampling are present to exempt animals that cause damage in the public domain from any liability
  • Pit is present to prove that there is no liability for the damage of vessels (or, for Rabbi Yehuda, for the death of a person) caused by an animal that falls into a pit
  • Man is present specifically to demonstrate that there are four additional types of indemnity that reflect damage done to the value of a person who has been damaged
  • Fire is present to teach that one is not liable for damages to a concealed object (except for Rabbi Yehuda's opinion)

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Bava Kamma 4: Are there More Primary Categories?

The rabbis clarify the distinctions between different primary categories of damages.  What seems most clear at the beginning of today's daf is that Eating is different from Goring in that an animal intends to derive pleasure from eating, while an animal does not intend to derive pleasure from goring.  Similarly, Trampling is a primary category where there is no intent to derive pleasure from the damages caused.

We learn that slaves and maidservants are considered to be independent regarding damages.  This means that if a slave causes damage to another master's property, the slave and not his master is obligated to repay those damages.  Although a master could have instructed his slave to damage another's property, the Gemara argues that a slave could also cause great damage with the intent to bankrupt his master.  The rabbis decide that slaves and maidservants are in fact independent and have the ability to choose whether or not to damage another's property.  This happens to be a convenient argument for the rabbis, as none of them were also slaves but likely many of them were masters.

The Gemara teaches that the primary category of ox is distinct from the primary category of Man, which is new category for us.  If an ox kills another ox after the owner has been warned about goring, the owner is liable to pay damages called a ransom.  The ransom is money paid to release the owner from the penalty of death at the hand of Heaven.  In addition, the ox is stoned.  If a man kills another man, there are four additional forms of payment: pain, humiliation, medical costs, and loss of livelihood.  This is added to the payment for damages.

The rabbis discuss whether it is the typical manner of an ox to gore; for a man to damage property.  If so, we should always be safeguarding our bodies so that they do not cause damage.

The rabbis argue about the origin of the primary category of Maveh.  Perhaps it is related to the word for 'fire', as proof texts might suggest.  But there is no living spirit in fire as there is in Maveh.

Rabbi Oshaya suggests that there are not four but thirteen primary sources of damages.  In addition to the four already mentioned (Ox, Pit, Maveh, Fire), there are the "Bailees": the Unpaid Bailee, the Borrower, the Paid Bailee, the Renter; and the Indemnities: Damage (loss in value because of damages), Pain, Medical Costs, Loss of Livelihood, and Humiliation. 

The rabbis argue about whether there are thirteen primary sources of damage, or perhaps nine primary sources of damage, or whether Rabbi Oshaya's categories are sub-categories of the primary category of Man.  Or, they argue, is the distinction about action in contrast with damages that occur on their own?  Perhaps there are twenty-four primary sources of damage.  We learn about thieves, rapists, seducers, defamers, those who cause teruma to be ritually impure, those who mix teruma with non-sacred food, one who pours wine for idolatry? 

When asked why these candidates were not considered further as possible primary sources of damage, we are told to consider their punishments.  For example, when fines are the consequence of one's action, perhaps the action should not be considered a primary source. 

What began relatively simply has become incredibly complex.  If I were to create a chart that defines each crime with its punishment, I might be able to better understand the complicated narrative that we are following.  Not today... we'll see about tomorrow.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Bava Kamma 2: Primary and Secondary Categories of Damages

Bava Kama is the first Masechet of Nezikin, Damages.  We begin with a Mishna that teaches us some of the very basic concepts, which is perfect for beginners.  In fact, today's daf had me wishing that Daf Yomi began with Masechet Bava Kama.  Some of the concepts that I have been learning for years are suddenly explained with clarity and simplicity.

Our Mishna teaches us that there are three primary categories of damages: Shor, Ox; Bor, Pit; Malveh, Tooth, and Hever, fire.  Each of these is distinct and separate from the other.  Each of these categories causes damage in its own typical way.  The owner is responsible for damages caused by these categories, and damages are paid through one's land - not just any land, but one's best quality land.

The Gemara walks us through the differences between primary and secondary categories.  Each of these primary categories has subcategories that are similar to the primary categories.  Sometimes it is difficult to determine why a subcategory is affiliated with one primary category rather than another.  The rabbis ask why we separate categories as we do.  Primary categories represent labour that was done within the Tabernacle, while subcategories reflect labours done primarily outside of the tabernacle.

Primary and secondary categories of impurities are compared with these primary and secondary categories of damages.  For example, the primary sources of ritual impurity are contact with a creeping animal, contact with human semen, and contact with a corpse.  Those primary sources can impart ritual impurity upon other people or vessels; impurity is transferred by tent, contact or carrying.  In turn, those secondary people and vessels are called secondary sources of ritual impurity.  They can impurify food or drink but not other people nor vessels.  They can transfer impurity only through contact or carrying but not via a tent.

We then learn about the subcategories of Hashor are Karen, Goring; Shen, Eating; and Regel, Trampling.  Keren has its own subcategories, which might be argued to be primary categories as well: Negifa, Pushing; Nesicha, Biting; Ravitza, Crouching; and Veita, Kicking.  Goring is thought to be fatal.  It is in an ox's nature to be tame, but it will gore in the right (or wrong) circumstances.  An ox that hurts another ox is thought to have done so defensively, and not with the intent to harm or defend itself.  An animal that has gored once should always be kept away from other people and animals; the owner is responsible for full damages if the ox should gore - or hurt - a second time.  

Biting might be thought to be a subcategory of eating, but the rabbis note a difference.  When an ox eats, it does so for pleasure.  When it bites, there is no inherent pleasure in that act; it is instinctive.  The rabbis engage in a similar conversation regarding crouching and kicking.

We end our first daf of Bava Kama with proof texts from our rabbis.  Each describes where we find reference to the primary categories of damage in the Torah.

An interesting beginning to this new Masechet.  It is particularly intriguing to hear the rabbis' considerations regarding the instinctive nature of animals.  In much of what I have learned to this point, the rabbis are not sympathetic to the needs of animals; in fact, the needs of animals are hardly mentioned.  Today's daf offers insight into the rabbis' understanding of animal behaviour and why we cannot blame an animal for its actions, even if it does great damage to human bodies or our property.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Kiddushin 82: Professions, Seclusion, and Patriarchy

Our final daf of Masechet Kiddushin shares two new Mishnayot.  Both extend the notion of seclusion to every-day decisions about career.

Our first Mishna teaches that bachelors and women should not be teachers.  Bachelors should not herd cattle nor should they sleep with other bachelors under a blanket.  Ultimately the rabbis permit these activities. 

Why shouldn't bachelors and women be teachers?  Not because of a fear of sexual interference, but because teaching invites opportunities to be alone with parents of the children.  This can lead to temptation and to seclusion.  Why shouldn't bachelors be alone with cattle?  A fear of bestiality.  And why shouldn't two bachelors be permitted to sleep under a blanket together?  A fear of homosexual behaviour.  However, the rabbis agree that Jewish bachelors can be trusted not to engage in bestiality nor in homosexual behaviour, and so these actions are permitted.

Interestingly, this leniency allows men to be together, two under one blanket.  Certainly some of the rabbis themselves were gay.  Were these decisions agreed upon to permit men more opportunities to find intimacy with each other?  Or is this leniency coincidental?

Our second Mishna is longer.  It teaches that men should not choose trades that force them to be secluded with women - whether with one woman or with a group of women.  Rabbi Meir teaches that one should teach his son a clean and easy trade, and to pray (for success) to the One to Whom wealth and prosperity belong - for every profession offers the possibility of poverty and wealth.  The trade does not determine poverty or wealth; we earn our conditions based on our merit.  Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar teaches that animals have no trade and yet they are happy.  We will experience anguish in our trades - and he claims that he committed evil actions and thus lost his livelihood.

The rabbis share their opinions regarding which tradespeople are robbers (ex.donkey drivers, sailors, pot-makers, storekeepers, etc.) and which are good-hearted.  Rav Nehorai suggests that teaching our sons only Torah, and not trades, will keep them happy in their youth and healthy in their old ages.  This is proven by texts.

The Gemara shares a list of professions that one should avoid - in fact, we should avoid those who practice those professions.  Smiths, carders (weavers), bloodletters, barbers, launderers, bath house attendants, etc...  Bloodletters are described as particularly arrogant, envious, and prone to thieve and sin sexually.  Needlework is said to be a clean and easy trade, but the rabbis remind us that it would have to be particular needlework that was done by men only.  

One statement compares good to bad trades: perfumers to tanners, for example.  And then we learn that while women and men are both needed in the world, "Fortunate are those who have male children and woe is to those who have female children".  No comment is required here.

Our final daf opens up the concept of kiddushin to the importance of maintaining respectable and gendered roles through one's professional work.  The distancing of men and women ensures that the structure of ancient society could continue to function without much upset.  However, the inequity of that society sits like a secret unspoken.  Yes, women have attempted to reframe our roles. However, reading today's daf emphasizes the lived reality of both men and women: a strict patriarchal structure ensures that some men are satisfied  with their lives with many men and almost all women live with less respect, less value, and less power to determine their own destinies.  This is ancient Judaism: a beautiful, intricate, complex system that honours G-d through hierarchy.