Friday, March 27, 2009

Insights for Bava Kamma 83

By: Reb Yechezkel Khayyat
Dovecotes of Non Jews
The Gemora lists the dovecote of a non-Jew as not meriting a trap free zone around it. The Rishonim discuss the reason for this. The Meiri states that the Gemora was only referring to non Jews who are barbaric and have no religion at all. These people’s property is not afforded any protection, due to their barbaric behavior. All other dovecotes are protected, even if not owned by Jews. Rashi, on the other hand, understands the restriction of traps to be a special protection accorded to fellow Jews, as a kindness. This kindness is not extended to non-Jews.
Slave Value
The Mishna states that to estimate nezek, we evaluate the value of a slave with and without the damage. The Shitah quotes Rav Yehonasan who says that we do not estimate how much the victim feels he lost due to the permanent damage done to his body, since that would be so extreme as to be unfair to the damager. One would never put a reasonable price on his own physical body parts, and the resulting estimation would be exorbitant.

Rashi states that the slave market we are referring to is the market for an eved ivri – a Jewish slave. The Ketzos explains that a Jew cannot be estimated as a non Jewish slave, since he would never be one. The Rosh, however, says the market is for non Jewish slaves. Rashi’s opinion is difficult, as Jewish slaves are only sold for six years, and therefore the difference in value will not accurately reflect the damage done. Rabbi Akiva Eiger says that even if we were to continually reevaluate the damages every six years (to reflect the ongoing loss), this would be unfair to the damager, since the ultimate sum will be much larger than the one time loss to a permanent non Jewish slave. The Maharshal suggests that Rashi agrees that the slave market used for estimation is that for non Jewish slaves, but that Rashi here is simply giving a rationale for applying such an estimation to a free man. Since a free man can sell himself as a slave, this indicates a monetary loss ascribable to the damage done to his body. See Ketzos 420:1 for more detail on Rashi’s opinion.
Ayin Tachas Ayin
The Gemora explains how we know this verse is not literal. The Rambam (Chovel umazik 1:6) states that even though the straight reading of the verse is at odds with the halachah, the halachah comes from Moshe Rabbeinu himself, and has been always accepted. The commentators discuss why the Torah used this phrase, if the real meaning is not literal. The Ibn Ezra states that the Torah is telling us that if the damager would not pay money, it would be fitting for him to lose his eye. The Seforno similarly states that in a pure legal sense, the appropriate punishment would be physical, but the Torah was kind to allow monetary punishment instead. See the Ibn Ezra (Shmos 21:24) for a discussion of logical proofs to the monetary punishment.

The Gr”a states that the verse itself hints to the monetary punishment. The word Ayin is three letters – ayin, yud, nun. If we take the letters after each of those letters, we have the letters pei, kaf, samech. Rearranging those letters spells kesef – money. The verse tells us that for the eye, the damager pays tachas ayin – the letters below (after) ayin.

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Raising Dogs

Rabbi Eliezer Hagadol (Bava Kamma 83) stated that one who raises dogs is equivalent to raising pigs, and he therefore is included in the curse of the Sages. The Shitah quotes Rav Yehonasan who says that the opinion in the first braisa agrees that a dangerous dog may not be raised, but only due to the verse of ma’akeh (a fence), which states lo tasim damim – you shall not introduce blood in your house.,which was quoted on BK 15.

The Maharshal (BK 7:45) discusses why the prevalent custom in his time was for Jews to have dogs in their property. He first considers the possibility that since we live amongst non Jews, some of whom are hostile to us, we may raise the dogs for protection, just as the Gemora allows this for border towns, including Nehardea. He rejects this possibility, since even when kept for protection, the dog must be chained down during the day (when people walk around and may get hurt), and only let loose at night (when people are not walking around). The prevalent custom is to keep the dogs unchained even during the day. He therefore states that the Gemora’s statements on daf 15 and 83 are referring solely to a kelev ra – a bad dog, which can harm and scare people, by harming or barking. The Mishna therefore referred to one who raises Hakelev – the dog, i.e., the prohibited kelev ra – and not just kelev – a dog. However, our dogs, which are docile and do not scare or hurt people, are not included. Instead, they are included in the category of kelev kufri (80a), which Rashi explains as either small or docile dogs. People are used to these dogs, and are not even scared of them. Any dog that scares people – even if it cannot harm them - is forbidden, as indicated in the story of the pregnant woman.

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Greek Wisdom

The Gemora (Bava Kamma 83) states that Greek wisdom is not the Greek language, but does not explain what Greek Wisdom is. This is, of course, extremely relevant, as the braisa stated that one who teaches his son Greek Wisdom is cursed. The Shitah quotes a Gaon who says that Greek wisdom is a form of communicating in hints, without all people understanding the content (similar to the Oracles of Greek history). This fits well with the story the Gemora quoted (82b), in which an old man communicated important information to the army outside of Yerushalayim, which led to the curse. The Shitah quotes the Rema who says that Greek wisdom is predicting the future based on astrology. The Meiri says that Greek wisdom is Greek philosophy, which was forbidden due to its tendency to attract people and draw them away from many fundamental religious principles. Those who had to interact with the royalty needed to be versed in these areas, in order to be socially acceptable to the royal mileui.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Seudas Mitzvah

Seudas Mitzvah

By: Reb Avi Lebowitz

The Gemora (Bava Kamma 80) tells Rav and Shmuel and Rav Assi once met at a circumcision of a boy, or as some say, at the house for the salvation of a son (the redeeming of a firstborn). Rav would not enter before Shmuel, nor Shmuel before Rav Assi (for Rav Assi was greater), nor Rav Assi before Rav (for Rav Assi was Rav’s student). They therefore discussed who should go in last, and they decided that Shmuel should go in last, and that Rav should enter and then Rav Assi.

Rashi comments that the “week of the son” refers to a bris milah, whereas the “salvation of the son” refers to a party that was done for the pidyon haben (redemption of the firstborn).

The Maharsha points out that from Rashi we find a source for making a party for pidyon haben, but it is not a source for making a party for a bris milah.

The Maharsha seems to understand that the requirement to make a party for pidyon haben is better sourced than the requirement to make one for bris milah. However, the Maharshal (Yam Shel Shlomo 37), in his famous discussion about seudas mitzvah asks a question from the Gemora in Chulin 95b which states that Rav did not partake in any “voluntary” feast!? Why then was Rav participating in this seudah? The Maharshal explains that by milah, the feast itself is a mitzvah just like it is by a wedding, however, there is no mitzvah to have a party by pidyon haben. The Maharshal clearly understands that whether it was milah or pidyon haben, Rav was joining and eating at the party. He assumes that the requirement to have a seudah for milah is more basic than having one at pidyon haben. Since the seudah of pidyon haben is only voluntary, how could Rav join and eat? [Evidently he holds that it is not a mitzvah at all by pidyon haben!?]

From this, the Maharshal is mechadesh a major yesod that any seudah whose purpose is to give praise to Hashem and either publicize a mitzvah (such as pidyon haben) or a miracle (such as the birth of a child which is Rabbeinu Tam's explanation of “salvation of a son” i.e.a shalom zachor) qualifies as a seudas mitzvah.

The source for a siyum on a masechta of Gemora qualifying as a seudas mitzvah, the Maharshal says, is from a Gemora in Shabbos 118b that Abaye would make a party when he would see a torah scholar finish a masechta (the Maharshal then launches into a suggestion to make the bracha of “hasimchah bi’me’ono” at a siyum, which he retracted from after he felt that it was the reason that a siyum he once attended was totally ruined). At the end of the perek, the Maharshal continues to show from this Gemora in Shabbos that even those who aren't actually finishing the masechta should celebrate with the one completing the masechta, just as we find that Abaye would make the seudah for his students even when he didn't actually learn it with them.

The Maharshal also points out that the Gemora in Ta'anis 30b cites that one of the reasons for establishing a Yom Tov on the fifteenth of Av was because it was the day that they completed the mitzvah of cutting the wood for the mizbei’ach. Just as there is a point to make a seudah and Yom Tov upon the completion of a mitzvah, so too, there would be with the completion of a masechta, because there is no greater mitzvah than completing a sefer. As surprising as it may seem, the seudah at the siyum masechta seems to be better sourced as a seudas mitzvah, more than bris milah (which the Maharsha questions) and pidyon haben (which the Maharshal initially questioned).

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Mumar l'hachis and l'teavon

Desecrating Shabbos

By: Reb Avi Lebowitz

Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai’s students asked of him (Bava Kamma 79) : Why is the Torah stricter on a thief than on a robber. He replied: The robber puts the honor of the servant (man) on the same level as the honor of his owner (Hashem),whereas the thief does not put the honor of the servant on the same level as the honor of the master (for by stealing covertly, he is displaying a fear of man, but not Hashem). He made, as it were, the eye of the one Below (Hashem) as if it would not be seeing, and the ear of the one Below as if it would not be hearing, as it says: Woe to them who hide in depths to conceal their counsel from Hashem, and their deeds are in the dark, and they say, “Who sees us, and who knows of us?” And it is written: And they say, “Hashem will not see, neither will the God of Jacob give heed.” And it is written: For they say, “Hashem has forsaken the earth and Hashem does not see.”

Many years ago (14 Teves 5761), I had a question based on the halachah found in Hilchos Shechita (siman 2) - One who violates Shabbos in public is considered a mumar for the entire torah tantamount to one who worships avoda zara, and his shechitah is invalid just as the shechitah of an idolater. But, one who violates Shabbos in private, although he is not trusted, so long as there are mashgichim who determine that he shechted properly, his shechitah is valid. Based on the Gemora’s logic by ganav and gazlan, we should consider one who desecrates Shabbos in private to be worse than one who desecrates Shabbos in public!?

R' Moshe (Igros O.C. 1:33) raises this question and based on it, he is mechadesh an important yesod. It is not clear why one who desecrates Shabbos in public is so severe, but R' Moshe suggests that one who violates Shabbos in public is not just a mumar l’teavon (a heretic out of desire), but the fact that he is doing it in public indicates that he is a mumar l’hachis (a heretic out of spite). Although the concept of the Gemora is true, that one who steals in private and hides from Hashem is worse, that is when both the act in private and the act in public are for the sake of fulfilling his. However, when one violates Shabbos in public, he enters a new realm of being a “mechalel Shabbos l’hachis,” which is certainly worse than merely being motivated by desires. Even if deep down, he is only doing it to satisfy his desires, we do not regard his inner thoughts, and the act is an act of l’hachis.

Based on this, he suggests that this only applies at a time when people understand the severity of Shabbos, so that when one violates Shabbos publicly, it is an indication that he has a complete disregard for the Shabbos, but nowadays, where people no longer take Shabbos seriously, and their desires would bring them to desecrate Shabbos in public just as fast as it would bring them to desecrate Shabbos in private, even one who desecrates Shabbos in public will not have the status of an idolater (and therefore his shechitah is valid and he can be counted for a minyan).

I had an alternate approach to answer this question. Stealing is an aveira between two fellow men that every society recognizes as wrong and destructive. It is part of human nature to consider theft to be bad, and is inherent in human nature to try and hide these actions from others. When one hides these actions from people because he is worried that people will think less of him, or may catch him to punish him, he is outwardly displaying a fear for people that exceeds his fear of Hashem. Since it is part of human nature to hide acts of theft, we assume his intention is to hide it from other people. However, Shabbos is between man and God, and therefore the violation of Shabbos is not considered bad by human nature. When one hides his desecration of Shabbos from others, we assume that it is not because he is afraid of people, because people don't view desecrating Shabbos as inherently bad. So why would he hide his actions from people? We assume his attempt to hide his desecration of Shabbos is out of respect for Hashem, rather than trying to hide from Hashem. But when he is desecrating Shabbos in public, we consider it to be a lack of respect, violating Shabbos in the open showing no regard for it at all.

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