Bava Kamma Chapter Four Mishnah One
This mishnah deals with the nature of the financial obligation of the owner of a harmless ox that has injured several oxen, without it ever becoming an attested danger. According to one opinion, the owner of the injured ox becomes new owner of the harmless ox, when the latter causes injury. The result of this ownership is that if the harmless ox causes further injury, the owner of the previously injured ox will have financial liability. The second opinion is that the owner the injured ox becomes a partner in the ownership of the injuring ox. In our mishnah we will see the manifestation of these two differing opinions.
1) [If] an ox has gored four or five other oxen, this one after this one:
a) the owner shall pay to [the owner of] the last ox injured.
b) If money remains, it will go to the [the owner of] the previously [injured ox].
c) If money still remains, it will go to the [the owner of the ox injured] previous to the previously [injured ox].
d) [The owner of] the last [injured ox] benefits,
e) according to Rabbi Meir.
2) Rabbi Shimon says, [If] an ox worth 200 gores an ox worth 200 and the carcass is not worth anything, this one gets 100 and this one gets 100.
a) [If] it injures another ox worth 200, the [owner of the] ox last injured receives 100 and the owner of the previously injured ox receives 50.
b) [If] it injures another ox worth 200, the [owner of the] ox last injured receives 100, the [owner of the] previously injured ox receives 50, and the first two receive 25.
First of all let us chart out two tables explaining the differences between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Shimon. In this chart all oxen were worth 200 before the injuries. The numbers are how much each owner of the injured oxen will collect.
Amount left to owner of injuring ox
First ox injured
According to Rabbi Meir, the owners of the previously injured oxen are considered the new owners of the injuring ox and therefore are fully responsible for subsequent damages. Only if money remains from the value of the injuring ox can these owners recover money for their own injured oxen.
According to Rabbi Shimon the owners of the previously injured oxen are considered partners in the ownership of the injuring ox. When an ox damages one other ox, they are now partners and they each get 100. When it injures again, the owner of the currently injured ox is a partner who gets half, meaning 100 and the previous two owners become partners in an ox worth 100, and each gets 50. If the ox should injure a third time, the owner of the currently injured ox is a partner and receives half, meaning 100. The owner of the second injured ox is now a half partner in an ox worth 100 and he gets 50. The fifty that is left in the worth of the original ox is split evenly between the original owner and the owner of the first injured ox, who are partners in that 50.
Questions for Further Thought:
Since this mishnah is quite complicated, todays challenge is just to understand its simple meaning.