ה׳ באב ה׳תשע״ו (August 9, 2016)

Bava Kamma 70a-b: A Four- or Five-fold Payment

The Mishna on our daf presents a number of cases where the penalties of kefel (“double” – see Shemot 22:3) or arba va-hamishah (four or five times the value of the stolen animal – see Shemot 21:37) will apply, even though there is reason to suspect that it would not. According to the Mishna, if someone:

  • stole an animal and sold it on Shabbat, or if he
  • stole an animal and sold it to avoda zara, or if he
  • stole an animal and killed it on Yom Kippur,

in all of those cases he will still pay four or five times the value of the animal, for having stolen it and then for killing it or selling it.

The list that appears in the Mishna is carefully written. Based on the Gemara’s principle of “Kim lei be-d’raba mi-nei – when faced with two punishments the more severe of the two punishments will be applied,” if the person committed a crime for which he would be killed then he would not be obligated to pay a fine. Therefore, even if the person who stole the animal sinned during the robbery or when he sold the animal, as long as he did not commit a capital offense, he will still be obligated to pay the penalty.

Thus, when presenting the case of a robbery on Shabbat, the situation that we find is that the animal was sold – not killed – since killing an animal on Shabbat is one of the 39 forbidden activities for which the person would be sentenced to death. Similarly, when presenting the case where the animal was sold to avoda zara, we do not find that the animal was sacrificed to idols, since that would be considered a capital offense. With regard to Yom Kippur, however, since the punishment for killing an animal is karet, the example presented by the Mishna is that of an animal that was stolen and killed.

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