י״ז בסיון ה׳תשע״ו (June 23, 2016)

Bava Kamma 23a-b: The Innocuous Ox

In the past we have referred to two different kinds of animals that cause damage:

  1. shor mu’ad – an ox that has gored in the past – for which one pays full damages (nezek shalem), and
  2. shor tam – an ox with no violent history – for which one pays for only half of the damage (hatzi nezek) that he caused.

The Mishna on today’s daf asks for definitions for these two types of animals. (The Nimukei Yosef points out that the Mishna’s real question is how to establish that an animal is mu’ad and when will it be removed from that category and returned to its status as a tam. Clearly, any ordinary animal with no history of violence will be considered tam.)

Rabbi Yehuda says that a shor becomes mu’ad if it gores three days in a row; it reverts to being a tam if it goes three days without goring. Rabbi Me’ir teaches that a shor becomes mu’ad after three consecutive acts of goring (according to this opinion, the number of days is not relevant), and it will be considered tam when a child can pet it without it reacting violently.

In explaining Rabbi Me’ir’s position, Tosafot point out that even though we ordinarily distinguish between the status of an animal regarding people and animals (i.e. an ox may be considered tam with regard to people, but mu’ad with regard to animals), if it is so calm and domesticated that children can play with it, it is an indication of a full return to its status as a tam. Tosafot and many of the rishonim believe that Rabbi Me’ir is not arguing with Rabbi Yehuda, he is simply offering another test to ascertain that the animal is not dangerous, a test that would work even without the three day wait. Rabbeinu Yehonatan disagrees and argues that Rabbi Me’ir is in disagreement with Rabbi Yehuda, and according to Rabbi Me’ir three days of calm would not be enough to declare the ox to be a tam – we need a clear proof that the animal is no longer dangerous.

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