Thursday, September 21, 2006

Amazing Bava Kamma Resources

As you all know I try to spend some time each day exploring and swimming in the sea of the Talmud. Since the beginning of the latest Daf Yomi cycle, have been keeping up with it as best I can. It currently is reading the Succah tractate, which covers the festival of Succah that occurs a few days after Yom Kippur, in which traditional Jews build a succah (booth) and are supposed to eat and sleep in it for the week of the festival. I have included some excerpts in the blog.

The Talmud passages spend a LOT of time on the dimensions and measurements and materials of a succah, so it can seem rather esoteric to someone like myself who won’t be building a succah, any time soon.

However, there are other tractates of the Talmud that deal with more “real world” topics. In particular there is the order called Nezikim (damages) and within that are the Bavas (gates) – which deal with civil law.

Since I bought my Ipod in November, I have been listening to talks by Rabbi Shlomo Singer from the Passaic Torah Institute on the first chapter (of ten) of Bava Kamma (he has taken over a one and a half years of two to three per week 40-minute lectures to cover the first chapter). They are really quite wonderful and he does a wonderful job of making them relevant to our day-to-day lives.

For a nice introduction to Bava Kamma --

Now it turns out that Yeshiva University – the leading Modern Orthodox university in the States, is covering Bava Kamma this year. And that means that there are a number of lecturers presenting on the topic and they will be presenting ALL YEAR on it.

You can listen to them here – Bava Kamma lectures

There are at least 5 different Rabbis speaking about the same Perek (chapter) – that is Meruba (chapter 7), which deals with stealing and robbery. I am still trying to figure out which one I can follow most easily, since some use more Hebrew than others.

The first Mishnah of Meruba reads:

Mishnah: The rule of twofold payment is more inclusive than the rule of fourfold or fivefold payment. For the rule of twofold payment applies to both living things and to inanimate things, whereas the rule of fourfold and fivefold payment applies only to an ox or sheep alone, as it is stated: “If a man shall steal an ox or a sheep, and he slaughters it or sells it, etc. [he shall pay five cattle in place of the ox, and four sheep in place of the sheep] [Exodus 21:37]. One who steals after a thief does not pay the twofold payment, nor does one who slaughters or sells after a theif pay the fourfold or fivefold payment.

There is also an ongoing lecture by Rabbi Rothwachs, who is presenting on chapter 3 (Hamaniach) which with types of damages (for some reason they are not labeled on the search page, but can be found by clicking on the ":" near the bottom of the list. The opening Mishnah of Hamaniach reads:

Mishnah: If one places a kad in the public doman, and another person comes along and stumbles over it and breaks it, he [the pedestrian] is not liable to pay for it. And if he [the pedestrian] was damaged by it, the owner of the chavis is liable to compensate him for the damage.

A couple notes might help here: a kad is usually a jug or a pitcher, while chavis, usually means barrel. However, they are used interchangeably here and elsewhere (which of course, leads to much discussion). Also note that there is a basic premise in Bava Kamma, called adam muad l’olam, which basically means that “humans are always responsible for their actions” – to read more about it, Google “adam muad l’olam” and the first selection that comes up is my entry on my blog Talmudic Questionings!


While at times I wonder about why I am so drawn to the Talmud, but it is the nitty-gritty, real world nature of these discussions that are also completely interwoven with a sense of the transcendent that draws me back again and again.

Perhaps these new series of lectures may be just the invitation to enter this world as well.

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