י״א בסיון ה׳תשע״ו (June 17, 2016)

Bava Kamma 18a-b: Propelling Pebbles

The Gemara on our daf discusses the case of tzrorot – pebbles that are kicked by an animal that is walking in the public domain, which damage some other object. On the previous daf, Rava ruled that hilkhitah gemirah lei – that it is a long-standing tradition (perhaps even an oral tradition handed down from Moses on Mount Sinai) that in a case of tzrorot the owner of the animal will pay half of the damage that was caused. Rava asks whether the half damage that is paid will come from the animal itself (i.e. that the amount that will be paid will never be more than the value of the animal that caused the damage) since that is the normal payment in cases where the owner is responsible for only half of the damage that was caused (e.g. a shor tam) or if there will be no such limitation on the payment, since we do not find any such limitation when damage was done by the animal in a normal fashion.

The Shiṭṭah Meḳubbeẓet explains Rava’s quandary as follows. Rava believes that the law regarding tzrorot is a long-standing oral tradition. He is not sure, however, whether the intention of that tradition was to give tzrorot the same status as a shor tam that does damage, or if the case of tzrorot remains an ordinary case of nizkei regel (damage done by an animal while walking normally), and the oral tradition simply limited the level of responsibility of the owner.

Some explain Rava differently, looking at it as a question of how to define the payment. Do we see payment from the animal itself as being inherently connected with payment of hatzi nezek – half damages – and whenever the owner is required to pay half damages, it will be limited to the value of the animal that did the damage, or perhaps it is a unique law connected with keren – damage done by a goring ox – that would not apply to other types of damage?