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    Mishnah Bava Kama 8:6

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    Arik
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    Mishnah Bava Kama 8:6

    Post  Arik on Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:37 pm

    If one shouts in his fellow’s ear, then he gives him a sela. Rabbi Judah says in the name of Rabbi Yose the Galilean: a maneh. If he slapped him, then he gives him two hundred zuz. If it was with the back of the hand, then he gives him four hundred zuz. If he cut his ear, pulled his hair out, spit at him (and the spittle reached him), or removed his cloak from him—or, if he uncovered a woman’s head in the market—them he gives him four hundred zuz.

    This is the general rule: “everything according to his honor.”

    Rabbi Akiva said: Even the poorest in Israel should be considered as though they were freepersons who lost their wealth, since they are children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    It once happened that a man uncovered a woman’s head in the market. She came before Rabbi Akiva and he ordered the man to give her four hundred zuz. The man said to him: “Rabbi, give me time.” [Rabbi Akiva] gave him some time. The man then watched the woman until she stood at the door of her courtyard, and then he broke a jug holding about an issar’s worth of oil in front of her. She exposed her head. She was mopping up the oil [with her palm] and then placing her hand on her head. The man brought witnesses against her and came before Rabbi Akiva. He said to him: “Rabbi, am I supposed to give such a woman four hundred zuz?” He responded to him: “You have made no point at all. When a person injures him- or herself, he is not liable to punishment, even though he had no right to do so. When others hurt him, they are liable. [Likewise,] when a person cuts down his own plantings, he is not liable to punishment, even though he had no right to do so. When others cut down his plantings, they are liable.


    Commentary:

    Our mishnah opens with what looks like the repertoire of a typical grade school bully: shouting (the Hebrew verb tq‘ which, according to Rashi, might also be translated as “ear-flicking”), slapping, backhanded slapping, spitting, hair-pulling, hat-stealing, and even mild forms of “depantsing.” Unfortunately, some adults engage in these behaviors as well, compelling our mishnah to determine the appropriate compensation in each case. What links them all, of course, is that each of these forms of abuse entails negligible pain or bodily injury, but considerable shame. It does not hurt much to be slapped, and it rarely necessitates a visit to the doctor, but a slap nevertheless affronts its recipient, especially when it is delivered with the back of the hand. The same goes for ear-flicking, hair-pulling, hat-stealing, and de-cloaking. Yet, as we learned in M. Baba Kama 8:1, victims are entitled to compensation for the humiliation they experience.

    There is a discrepancy, however, when it comes to the manner in which victims should be compensated. The inventory at the beginning of the mishnah makes it seems as though compensation is determined based on the nature of the offense, not the status of the victim. A slap is worth two hundred zuz, a backhanded slap four hundred zuz, and so on, regardless of the social or financial standing of the victim. Yet, the list of offenses is followed by a “general rule” which, recalling the protocol set forth in M. Bava Kama 8:1, declares that compensation for shame depends upon the relative rank of the parties involved. The same slap, for example, would dishonor an “upper class gentleman” (as Rabbi Passamaneck referred to him several weeks ago) far more than a day laborer, since the upperclassman has more honor to lose. It is not clear whether the “general rule” serves as a rebuttal or, as is more likely, a refinement of the itemization that precedes it. If the latter, then our mishnah might be suggesting that the prices specified above are valid for the highest ranking members of society, while the court has the right to reduce the penalty when the aggrieved party ranks lower in the social hierarchy; or, alternatively, the prices are suited for commoners and the court may augment them in the case of a humiliated gentleman. The gemara will consider both possibilities.

    In either case, Rabbi Akiva’s opposition to the “general rule” is unambiguous. He believes that even poor Jews, since they are descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, should be reckoned as Jews who were once wealthy but had lost their possessions. Since they were once wealthy, they possess the stature of upperclassmen, and therefore they are entitled to the same compensation as upperclassmen when humiliated by others.

    Our mishnah then provides a precedent to illustrate Akiva’s position: a man once exposed the head of a woman in the market and Akiva imposed on him the statutory fine of four hundred zuz. Evidently, the man did not believe that the woman possessed four hundred zuz worth of honor and he beseeched Akiva for a postponement of the fine. In the meantime, the man waited for the woman to appear in her doorway. When she did, he dropped a jug of oil in front her. When the woman voluntarily bore her head in order to apply to her hair the oil she had collected from the ground, the man believed he had all the proof necessary to show that the woman could hardly have been shamed by his antics in the market. After all, this shameless woman was willing to expose herself for a few handfuls of oil!

    As it turns out, Rabbi Akiva was not impressed by the sting. The woman’s willingness to humiliate herself, he explains, did not give this man or any other the right to humiliate her, and even if he did not inflict on her any more shame than she might otherwise have brought upon herself, he is nevertheless obligated to compensate her as though she were a dignified, albeit ruined, gentlewoman—that is, with four hundred zuz. Simply because a person humiliates himself does not mean others have the right to humiliate him. Likewise, Akiva adds, simply because a man violates the command of Deut. 20:19 by cutting down his plantings does not mean others have the right to do the same.


    Questions for Reflection:

    Do you think the “general rule” is fair? Should compensation for shame depend upon the honor of the parties involved? Is spitting on a beggar different from spitting on a rabbi? Should the compensation be the same in both cases?

    Do you think the man should have been compelled to provide the maximum compensation to a woman so willing to bring shame upon herself?

    If the example of the woman bearing her head is a bit outmoded, can you think of an example in today’s society where humiliating a lowly person is generally acceptable, or at least more acceptable than humiliating a more distinguished person? Can you think of any cases where humiliating the distinguished person is more acceptable?
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    Yehudah

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    Re: Mishnah Bava Kama 8:6

    Post  Yehudah on Thu Jun 17, 2010 8:45 pm

    Learned that some months back, very good Mishneh. Yasher Koach!


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    Snapper2

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    Re: Mishnah Bava Kama 8:6

    Post  Snapper2 on Thu Sep 09, 2010 7:56 pm

    While I realize this justice is meant for the here and now, I cant help but wonder how it effects or reflects the afterlife. One gets offended and wants revenge/payment now instead of forgiving the offender. His payment is now but his grief or hate remains for that person. I know for a fact when I take offense of someone,I want that person to be offended double Mad , which I know isnt fair justice. Are these laws are put in place to punish the offender and not so much to recover honor ?
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    Arik
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    Re: Mishnah Bava Kama 8:6

    Post  Arik on Fri Sep 10, 2010 5:32 pm

    Snapper2 wrote:While I realize this justice is meant for the here and now, I cant help but wonder how it effects or reflects the afterlife. One gets offended and wants revenge/payment now instead of forgiving the offender. His payment is now but his grief or hate remains for that person. I know for a fact when I take offense of someone,I want that person to be offended double Mad , which I know isnt fair justice. Are these laws are put in place to punish the offender and not so much to recover honor ?


    We are required to forgive. Holding a grudge is sinful and not to mention destructive to ourselves.
    The laws are put in place partly to punish, but also to restore honor and also to teach the offender a lesson since according to The Talmud (Pirke Avot) "Let another man's honor be as dear to you as your own"

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