כ״ה בסיון ה׳תשע״ו (July 1, 2016)

Bava Kamma 31a-b: Stumble and Fall in the Public Domain

A baraita is brought in our Gemara that describes a Talmudic-age traffic accident: if people carrying clay or glass vessels were walking one after another and the one walking in front trips and falls, and if the one who is second in line falls over the first person and the third person trips over the second, then the one who is first will be responsible for damages incurred by the second, the second one will be responsible for the damages incurred by the third, and so forth. If, however, the first person caused them all to fall, then he will be responsible for all damage.

In what case might the first person cause all of those following him to fall? Two answers are given in the Gemara:

  • Rav Pappa says, “De-psaka le-orhei ke-shilda – he blocks the road like a corpse.”
  • Rav Zevid says, “Ke-hutra de-samyuta – he blocks the road like a blind man’s stick.”

Rav Papa’s explanation appears to be that the man who fell is lying across the entire width of the street and those that followed him trip over different parts of his body. The source of the word shilda is Assyrian, where it meant a corpse. Generally speaking it appears in the Talmud to mean a skeleton, which is its meaning in modern Hebrew.

According to Rashi’s explanation, Rav Zevid offers a similar approach; he is simply offering an alternative example – that of a blind man who stretches out his stick in different directions while walking in order to find his way. This case, too, is where the body covers the entire area of the street. Tosafot argue that there is a difference between Rav Papa, who describes someone who is blocking the road in such a way that the people behind him should have been able to see – and avoid – him, and Rav Zevid, who describes someone who is lying in the road at an angle (the way a blind person holds his stick) where it would not be clear to the people behind that he remains an obstacle.

Previous
Next