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.

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