Thursday, January 15, 2009

Deriving Benefit from a Corpse

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By Reb Avi Lebovitz Hearos on the Daf

Tosfos (Bava Kamma 10) asks: Why do we need a special verse to exempt a person who is killed by falling in a pit? It should be included in the exposition of “and the corpse shall belong to him”!? This means that the owner of the pit is only liable when the corpse can belong to the owner of the animal. Just as we exclude an animal that is a disqualified sacrifice, which cannot belong entirely to its owner (since certain restrictions apply to it even after it is redeemed), we should exclude man as well, since it is forbidden to derive pleasure from a corpse!?

Tosfos answers that from this verse alone, I would have said that the owner of the pit is liable for damaging a gentile, since one is permitted to derive pleasure from his corpse, so we need a verse to exempt the pit owner for the death of all people.

Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 349:1) writes that it is forbidden to derive benefit even from a gentile corpse. The Nekudas Hakesef quotes this from a Teshuvas Harashba. But, the Nikudas Hakesef points out that both our Tosfos and the Magid Mishnah hold that only a Jewish corpse is forbidden to derive pleasure from.

The Vilna Gaon proves that Tosfos is correct from David who used the foreskins from the Philistines to betroth the daughter of King Shaul. He also points out that the Rashba in his commentary on the Daf says like Tosfos.

However, the Pischei Teshuva reconciles Tosfos and the Rashba by saying that it is not Biblically forbidden, and that is why a special verse is needed to exempt the pit owner when a person is killed in a bor, but it is Rabbinically forbidden to derive pleasure from any corpse.