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.

No comments:

Post a Comment