Makkot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two

 

Introduction

Mishnah two continues to define what killing is considered accidental such that it allows a killer to escape to a city of refuge.

 

Mishnah Two

1)                     If a man threw a stone into the public domain and killed a person, he goes into banishment.

a)                                           Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob says:  “If after the stone had left his hand another person put out his head and caught it, the thrower is exempt [from banishment].”

2)                     If a man threw a stone into his [own] court and killed a person, then, if the victim had a right of entry there, the thrower goes into banishment, and if not, he does not go into banishment, as it says, “As when a man goes into the forest with his neighbor” (Deut. 19:5): the forest is a domain accessible to the victim and to the slayer and it therefore excludes the court of the householder where the victim has no right of entry.

3)                     Abba Shaul says: “Hewing of wood is an optional act and it therefore excludes a father beating his son, or a master disciplining his pupil, or an agent of the court [administering lashes].”

 

Explanation

Section one:  One who throws a stone into the public domain has thereby committed a negligent act and is exiled if the stone kills.  According to Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob the stone must be thrown at the place where a person is standing, before the stone is thrown.  If after the stone is thrown a person moves into its way he is not liable to be exiled.  This is probably because he is less negligent, having thrown a stone to a place where no one was standing.  However, according to the first opinion in the mishnah, merely throwing a stone to a place that might kill is enough to cause the thrower to be exiled.

Section two:  If a person throws a stone into his own courtyard and it kills a trespasser the thrower is not liable to be exiled.  This is learned from the example of accidental killing mentioned in Deuteronomy 19:5, that of an accidental killing taking place in the forest.  Just as the forest is a place where anyone may enter, so too any accidental killing can only occur in a place where the victim had permission to enter.  An accidental killing which takes place on private property when the victim had not been given permission to enter will not make the killer liable for exile.

Section three:  Abba Shaul learns another law from the example given in the Torah, that of a person chopping wood.  Chopping wood is a voluntary activity and therefore any accidental killing which will force the killer to go into exile must also entail voluntary activities.  If however the striking was mandatory such as a father disciplining his son, a master his student or a court agent administering lashes, the accidental killer is exempt.  When reading this mishnah, as harsh as it sounds we must remember that corporal discipline was an accepted part of all ancient societies.  

 

 

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