Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Bava Kamma 65

Bava Kamma 65 begins with an analysis of Rav's computation of damages for theft. Rav explains that one who steals pays back the keren (principal) computed as the value of the object when it was stolen. Meanwhile, when he pays the 2x, 4x or 5x penalty, the value of the object is computed as of the date when judgment is handed down.

Rav's method is later modified by the gemara which limits the application to a situation where the value of the object has decreased subsequent to the theft. By example, if the object was originally worth 4 but is now worth 1, he pays keren as 4, but 2x, 4x or 5x as multiples of 1.

Rav Chanina then attempts to support this understanding by citing to a beraisa involving a shomer who swears an object was stolen (thus absolving him from liability) before recanting and obligating him to pay chomesh (1/5 of total value including penalty). In this beraisa, R' Yaakov states that if he only admitted to swearing falsely after witnesses come and expose his fraud, he pays kefel (2x) and the chomesh satsifies the kefel requirement. How is this accomplished? The gemara on 65b explains that the value was originally 4, but is now worth 1. The kefel (computed at present value) would be 1. The chomesh (computed as 1/5 of total original value inclusive of penalty) would be 1 as well. Thus, Rav Chanina concludes that Rav's principle is vindicated.

Later on 65b, the gemara offers a scenario where Rav Chanina's beraisa would not necessarily support Rav. The gemara suggests that the shomer swore four times that the object was stolen and then recanted. If the object was worth 4 and is still worth 4, then the chomesh would be 1, but this would be multiplied by 4 (based on the number of false oaths). The kefel would still be 4 as this is the present value. As such, Rav Chanina's beraisa could be interpreted in a way other than as a support for Rav.

When we learned this gemara tonight, a member of my daf yomi group asked how a person could swear falsely four times? Once the beis din had absolved him of payment for the object (based on his false oath that it was stolen) why would the beis din make him swear three more times? The Rashba and Me'iri ask this question, and answer that the four oaths were made in four different batei din.

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