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.  

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