Bava Kamma Chapter Eight Mishnah Seven

 

Introduction

The first half of our mishnah teaches that a person is not forgiven for embarrassing another person merely by paying whatever fine was imposed upon him.  He must ask for forgiveness.  When he does the injured person should be gracious and forgive him fully and speedily.

The second half of the mishnah teaches several laws concerning a person who asks someone to injure him or injure his property.

 

Mishnah

1)                     Even though a man pays [him that suffers the indignity],  he is not forgiven until he seeks [forgiveness] from him, for it says:  “Therefore restore the man’s wife… [and he shall pray for you]” (Genesis 20:7). 

a)                                           And from where do we learn that he who must forgive should not be cruel?  As it says:  “And Abraham prayed unto God and God healed Avimelech” (Genesis 20:17).

2)                     If a man said, “Blind my eye”, or “Cut off my hand”, or “Break my foot”, he [that does so] is liable.

i)                                                       [If he added] “On the condition that you will be exempt”, he is still liable.

b)                                          [If he said] “Tear my garment”, or “Break my jug”, he that does so is liable.

i)                                                       [If he added] “On the condition that you will be exempt”, he is exempt.

c)                                           [If he said], “Do so to so-and-so, on the condition that you will be exempt, he is liable, whether it was [an offense] against his person or his property.

 

Explanation

As we explained in the introduction, section one states that a person is not forgiven for embarrassing another until he asks the injured party for forgiveness.  The mishnah learns this from the story of Avimelech and Abraham in Genesis 20.  According to the story, when Abraham came to Gerar he told the people there that Sarah was his sister.  Avimelech, thinking that Sarah was available, took her, with the intent of having relations with her.  In a dream God warned him not to touch Sarah.  God told Avimelech to return Sarah to Abraham and to ask him to pray on Avimelech’s behalf so that he would not be punished for taking Sarah.  From this story our Mishnah learns that merely rectifying the crime is not enough.  Avimelech was not forgiven for his (almost crime) just by returning Sarah.  He had to ask Abraham for forgiveness as well.  We also learn from this story that the wronged person should forgive easily.  Abraham did not delay in praying for Avimelech but immediately answered his request.

Section two deals with a person who asks someone else to injure him or his property.  We learn several general principles from the mishnah.  First of all, if a person asks another person to injure him or his property, without saying that the injurer will be exempt, the injurer is liable.  Second, if he asks the other person to injure his body, even if he says that the injurer will be exempt, the injurer is liable.  Third, if he asks the other person to injure a third party, again even if he says that the injurer will be exempt, the injurer is liable.

Note the beautiful, carefully crafted structure of the last section of this mishnah.  It is a classic example of mishnaic style.

 

Questions for Further Thought:

·                      What is the connection between the first and second halves of the mishnah?

·                      According to section two, if a person asks another person to injure his body and tells him that he will be exempt if he should do so, he is nonetheless liable.  Why?  What is the difference between bodily injuries and damages to property?

 

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