The Weekly Daf

For the week ending 11 April 2009 / 16 Nisan 5769

Bava Kama 107 - 113

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

The Limits of Responsibility

The Case: A man borrows a cow and passes away before returning it. His children, unaware that the cow is not their father's, slaughter it and consume its flesh.
The Rule: They must compensate the owner of the cow by paying two-thirds of the market value of beef.
The Reasons:
  1. They cannot be held responsible for damage caused because of circumstances completely beyond their control. (In earlier sheets this principle was cited in regard to someone causing damage in his sleep or breaking a vessel in the street due to darkness of night.)
  2. Even though there is no obligation to pay for damage there is an obligation to pay for the benefit they derived from eating the meat.
  3. In evaluating this benefit we assign only two-thirds of the meat's market value because we assume that they might not have eaten meat had they been required to pay full price and would indulge in this luxury only if it was available at the bargain price of two-thirds.

Bava Kama 117b

The Limits of Audacity

The Case: A man claims someone owes him money which he loaned him but has no witnesses or documentation to prove his claim. The defendant totally denies the obligation.
The Rule: He is free of any obligation to pay the alleged debt and Torah Law even exempts him from taking an oath to prove his innocence. (A later rabbinical decree does require him to take a special oath.)
The Reason: Human nature is such that a man does not have the audacity to lie to someone who did him a favor by lending him money. We therefore assume he is telling the truth in denying the claim.

Bava Metzia 107a

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