Sunday, 19 June 2016

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?

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