Bava Kamma Chapter Nine Mishnah Twelve



Mishnah eleven dealt with a person who steals from a convert who has no inheritors, swears falsely to the convert, saying that he did not steal, and then decides to repent.  He is obligated, as is always the case, to restore plus a fifth to the convert and bring a Guilt-offering to the Temple.  If the convert should die (without inheritors), the robber must restore the money to the priests in the Temple.  Our mishnah continues to deal with this situation and various possibilities that may arise.



1)                     If he [who had stolen from the convert] gave the money to the men of the priestly watch and then died, his inheritors cannot recover it from their [the priests] hands, as it says, “Whatsoever a man gives to a priest shall be his” (Numbers 5:10).

2)                     If he gave the money to Yehoyariv, and the Guilt-offering to Yedayah, he has fulfilled his obligation.

a)                                           If he gave the Guilt-offering to Yehoyariv and the money to Yedayah:  if the Guilt-offering still remains, the sons of Yedayah shall offer it; otherwise, he must bring another Guilt-offering.

b)                                          For if a man brought what he had stolen before he offered his Guilt-offering, he has fulfilled his obligation.

c)                                           But if he brought his Guilt-offering before he brought what he had stolen, he has not yet fulfilled his obligation.

3)                     If he gave the value but not the [added] fifth, the [added] fifth does not prevent [him from offering the Guilt-offering].



In the scenario established in section one the robber had brought the money to the priests, as was his obligation in a case where he robbed a convert who died with no inheritors.  After giving the money to the priests the robber died.  In mishnah eleven we learned that if the robber had died before giving the money to the priests, the inheritors could take the stolen money.  Our mishnah states that once the priests have taken the money into their possession the inheritors have lost their claim.

Section two deals with the process of giving the money to the priests and sacrificing the Guilt-offering, the two steps required for atonement.  This section requires some background information. The priests were divided into 24 watches, each watch responsible for a week’s duty in the Temple.  During that week anything brought to the Temple that would be given to the priests would be claimed by the men on that watch.  Each watch had a name.  Yehoyariv was the first watch and Yedayah was the second watch (see I Chronicles 24:7).  The general rule, established in our mishnah, section 2b-c, is that the stolen property must be restored before the Guilt-offering is sacrificed.  If the stolen property were to be restored after the Guilt-offering is sacrificed the robber must bring another sacrifice, for the Guilt-offering will not effect atonement.  If, therefore, he were to give the money to Yehoyariv, the first watch, and the sacrifice to Yedayah, the second watch, he would fulfill his obligation.  If, on the other hand, he had given the sacrifice to Yehoyariv and they had sacrificed the animal, and then he had brought the money to Yedayah, in order to atone for his transgression he would have to bring another offering.  If Yehoyariv had not sacrificed the animal, they could give it to Yedayah, who would subsequently sacrifice it, and the robber’s transgression would be atoned.

The final section of the mishnah teaches that restoring the actual value is the only necessary condition to bringing the sacrifice and causing atonement.  If one had restored the value but not the added fifth, his sacrifice would nevertheless effect atonement.  He is still obligated to bring the fifth, but its delay does not prevent atonement.  If, however, he brought the fifth but not the value, the sacrifice will be ineffective. 


Questions for Further Thought:

·                      Why does the mishnah need to state section one?  Why might one think that the inheritors could take the money from the priests in such a scenario?

·                      What is the connection between section two and three?