כ״ו בתמוז ה׳תשע״ו (August 1, 2016)

Bava Kamma 62a-b: Payment for a Stolen Object

The seventh perek of Massekhet Bava KammaPerek Merubah – focuses on kenasot – the punishments that a robber or thief will have to pay over and above returning the stolen object or its value. According to the Torah in Parashat Mishpatim (Shemot chapters 21-22) someone who steals an animal or an object will pay back twice the value of the object he stole (see Shemot 22:6-8). If he stole an ox (shor) or a sheep (seh) and killed them or sold them he will pay back five times the value of an ox and four times the value of a sheep (see Shemot 21:37).

The Mishna teaches that the payment of four or five times the amount stolen applies only to an ox or a sheep, while the double payment applies to any object that is stolen.

Our Gemara quotes a baraita that teaches that there are certain exceptions to this rule. For example, if someone steals land, there is no requirement to pay over and above returning the land. This rule seems unnecessary, given the general principle of Jewish law that karka ena nigzelet – land cannot be stolen. Tosafot explain that there are cases that are considered stealing in this context, e.g. adding part of a neighbor’s field to your own or stealing something that is growing, like grape vines.

Rabbeinu Yehonatan explains the placement of these laws by pointing out that the Mishna has completed its discussion of damage done by a person’s property – a goring ox, or an animal that did damage when it walked or ate, as well as fire and damage done by leaving an open pit in the public domain (shor, esh and bor). Now the Mishna turns its attention to damage done by one person to another.

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