Thursday, January 15, 2009

Haman and his Daughter

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Rava inquired (Bava Kamma 17) : If an animal pounced upon a utensil but it didn’t break, and it rolled to another place and broke there, what is the halachah? Do we consider the beginning of the process, and it is regarded as if the animal itself broke the utensil (in which case the owner will be liable to pay in full), or do we look at when the utensil actual broke, and then it would be regarded as a case of “pebbles” (in which case the owner will only be liable to pay for half the damages)?

The Gemora attempts to resolve this from that which Rabbah said: If one threw a utensil from the top of a roof and someone else comes and breaks it with a stick, the second person is exempt from liability, for we can say to him (the owner of the utensil), “He broke a broken utensil.” [Evidently, Rabbah considers the beginning of the process, and that is why the utensil is regarded as broken even before it actually hits the ground and breaks!]

The Gemora rejects the proof, by saying that although it was clear to Rabbah (that we consider the beginning of the process), it was still a matter of inquiry to Rava.

Tosfos writes that if one throws a stone or shoots an arrow onto a utensil, and someone else comes and breaks the utensil first, the second person is definitely liable to pay for the damages. We cannot say in this case that “he broke a broken utensil,” for if the utensil would be considered broken immediately, there would never apply the halachah of “pebbles,” for we would always consider the utensil to be broken as soon as the pebbles shoot out from the animal. Tosfos concludes that the logical distinction between throwing a stone at a utensil and throwing the utensil itself is a simple matter.

The Rogatchover Gaon uses this Tosfos to explain a Gemora in Megillah (16a). As Haman was leading Mordechai through the streets, they passed by Haman’s house. Haman’s daughter witnessed the scene and thought that Mordechai was leading her father. She took the bowl from the bathroom and threw it on her father’s head. When she realized that it was her father, she fell off the roof and died. This explains that which is written: And Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered. He was in “mourning” on account of his daughter, and “his head was covered” because of what occurred to him.

The question is asked that the sequence is reversed!? The verse should have stated that “his head was covered” and then he was in “mourning” Why was he mourning before his head was covered?

The Rogatchover Gaon suggests the following: Immediately after Haman’s daughter threw the bowl down, she realized her mistake, and she threw herself off the roof before the bowl landed on her father’s head. According to Tosfos, who distinguishes between when the utensil was set into motion, and when the stone was set into motion, we can explain as follows: She (like the utensil) was considered dead at the beginning of her descent; however, Haman’s head was not covered until the bowl actually landed on his head. This explains why the verse mentions that he was in mourning even before his head was covered.