ח׳ בתמוז ה׳תשע״ו (July 14, 2016)

Bava Kamma 44a-b: In Regard to an Ox Belonging to a Woman

Is there any reason to think that a woman should have less responsibility when it comes to damages than a man?

The Mishna on our daf lists seven cases of people who own an ox that will be killed because it killed a person. The first case on the list is that of an ox owned by a woman. In bringing a source for this law, the Gemara quotes a baraita that points to the Torah’s repetition of the word shor (ox) seven times in the passages that deal with a goring ox (see Shemot 21:28-32), which includes all of the “unusual” cases.

The rishonim question the need for a special source to teach that a woman will be responsible for the damage done by her ox, given the general rule that men and women are equally responsible for all punishments in the Torah. The general approach is that the language used in the Torah for these rules and regulations is uniquely masculine, so there is a need for a pasuk that will include women (Rashi suggests that the masculine expression is ba’al ha-shor – the owner of the ox – where ba’al is written in the masculine. Tosafot argues that it is the use of the words shor ish – the ox of a man – where ish is very clearly masculine.)

The Me’iri offers a different approach, raising one suggestion that the Mishna is talking about a case where a married woman owns the ox. While it is obvious to the Mishna that a single woman would be held responsible for her ox’s damage, just like a man, we may have thought that a married woman’s husband has some level of ownership of the ox leading to a different ruling. The Me’iri himself suggests that we might have thought that a woman is free of such obligations because she is seen as unable to fully control a large animal.

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