Bava Kamma Chapter One Mishna Two

 

Introduction

The second mishnah in Bava Kamma continues in the vein of the previous mishnah, providing us with general information about damage law that we will continue to learn about in subsequent chapters of the mishnah.  Again, some of the details may not be clear, but they will become clearer as we continue to learn.  If you have trouble understanding the mishnah, do not despair:  this mishnah baffled even the great sages of the Talmud!

 

Mishnah

1.                     Anything that I am responsible to guard, I have rendered it possible to do injury [for which I will become obligated].

2.                     If I have partially rendered it possible to do injury, I must make restitution for that injury as if I totally rendered it possible to do injury. 

3.                     When one damages [property that fits all of the following categories]: property that does not have “sacrilege” [i.e. sacrificial animals or property that belongs to the Temple in Jerusalem], property that belongs to other members of the covenant [Jews], property that is owned, and the injury is done in any place other than the private domain of the injurer and the common domain of the injured and injurer, in these cases the injurer must make restitution for the injury with the best of his land.

 

Explanation

This mishnah teaches several laws, albeit in language that is difficult to render into coherent English:

1)                     In order to be obligated to pay damages, the damage must be caused by an object over which I have an obligation to watch.  For instance, I am not responsible for full damages the first time my ox gores another ox, since I had no way of knowing that my ox gores.  However, the third time my ox gores, I am obligated because my ox is now known as a “goring ox” which I am obligated to guard carefully.   

2)                     If I partially enable damage to happen I am obligated for full damages.  For instance if there was a pit that was already 4 feet deep, and a six foot deep pit will kill an animal which falls into it, and I came along and deepened the pit by two feet, thereby making a four foot pit into a six foot pit, I am obligated as if I dug the whole pit. 

3)                     A person is obligated for damages caused only to certain types of property, namely property that belongs to Jewish individuals when the damages are done either on the injured person’s property or in the public domain.  In all other cases the owner of the damaging object is exempt.

 

Questions for further thought:

·                      If a person only created part of the object that caused the damage, why is he obligated?  Should the person who dug the first four feet of the pit also be obligated to join in paying the damages?

·                      If a person enters my property and my animal injures his belongings, for instance my animal eats his expensive leather shoes, why am I not obligated?  Could there be a way that I might become obligated for this type of damage?  

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