ו׳ בסיון ה׳תשע״ו (June 12, 2016)

Bava Kamma 13a-b: Damages and Sacrifices

We have learned that the owner of an animal is responsible to pay for damage done by an animal that he owns. What if the owner has declared that the animal will be brought as a sacrifice? Is he still responsible for damage done by an animal that is consecrated to the Temple?

Rabbi Abba appears to rule that in the case of a korban shelamim – where the meat of the animal will be eaten by the owner – the owner is responsible, but that payment will be made only from the meat, and not from the innards that will be sacrificed on the altar. In response to the Gemara’s objection that it is obvious that the parts of the animal that are sacrificed cannot be used to pay a debt, the Gemara explains that Rabbi Abba’s ruling means that the value of the innards cannot be considered when figuring the value of the animal for payment.

The Gemara’s example of this would be a situation where the animal was a shor tam – an ox that had no history of violence – whose owner is obligated to pay half of the damage caused by the animal, but no more than the value of the animal itself. According to the Rambam’s ruling in this case (see Hilkhot Nizkei Mamon 10:2-3) the owner of the animal that was damaged will be given an amount of meat from the sacrifice to eat (in holiness, following all of the rules and regulations of the korban) equal to half of the amount of the damage – but if the full animal was worth less than that amount, he will only get the value of the meat, and the fact that the innards have additional value will not be considered.

Although the Gemara only discusses the question with regard to a shor tam, the same question must be considered with regard to a shor mu’ad – an animal with a history of violence whose owner must pay full damages. Is the owner responsible for damage done by an animal that has been consecrated as a Temple sacrifice? The Me’iri rules that the owner remains responsible, and will have to pay full damages. The Yam Shel Shlomo argues that even in this case we will have to subtract the relative value of the innards from the damages, since that part cannot be considered the responsibility of the owner.

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