א׳ בסיון ה׳תשע״ו (June 7, 2016)

Bava Kamma 7a-b: He Shall Pay the Best

As we learned on yesterday’s daf , nizakin – debts that stem from damage done to someone – will be paid in iddit, the best land. This halakha is based on the passage in Sefer (22:4) where the Torah says regarding someone who does damage to another meitav sadehu u’meitav karmo yeshalem – that he will pay from his best field and his best vineyard. At first glance this appears to be a requirement for payment. Based on this, Abaye asks Rava how this works with a teaching that appears in a baraita that understands the passage (Shemot 21:34) requiring someone who dug a pit in the public thoroughfare to make restitution by means of kesef yashiv be-be’alav – “money he will return to the owner” – to mean that anything with value can be used to pay the debt, even bran.

Rava responds that the different pesukim refer to two different cases. When a person willingly pays, he can use any means of payment, as long as he pays the value of his debt. If a person must be forced to pay, then it is his iddit – his best land – that will be taken.

Rashi explains the case where the person who did the damage is forced to pay as being a situation where the individual does not willingly pay restitution and he is brought before the Jewish court. The Shiṭṭa Meḳubbeẓet argues that taking someone to court in order to ascertain his responsibility to pay is not considered, in itself, a “lack of willingness,” since we will always need to turn to the courts in order to clarify the level of responsibility and the amount that will need to be paid. The Shiṭṭa argues that we are talking about a case where the person who did the damage has already been found guilty, yet refuses to pay. When we come to collect forcibly, we will confiscate the best land. The Sukkat David points out that when a person pays his obligation readily, it is “the best” method of paying. Should he refuse to pay, the courts will try to make sure that he gets something that he will be able to sell easily – and iddit is the best way to accomplish that.

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