Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Sanhedrin 74

Sanhedrin 74 is a classic daf which brings together topics which are known to people from all levels of Jewish education. There is a discussion of the "big three" - the rules which can never be broken even to save a life - adultery, taking a life and idolatry. There is also a discussion about how Queen Esther allowed herself to be with King Ahasveros and multiple levels of question on the question itself.

Although all of the above topics are deep and worthy of discussion, the lawyer in me actually was more interested in a minor point which was raised by the gemara in talking about rodef.

Simply stated, the law of rodef states that if you see someone chasing another in order to kill him, you may kill the rodef to prevent him from killing the other person (yes the gemara contemplates that if you can "wing" the attempted murderer you should do so).

What piqued my interest was the "collateral damage" portion of the discussion. Rava states that if a rodef is chasing someone and that person breaks objects to evade the rodef, the person being chased is absolved from compensating the rodef if he was the owner of the objects, but would have to make restitution to a third party, because he is making use of the third party's items to save his life.

The gemara then follows with a discussion as to someone who is chasing after the rodef to prevent him from killing another. While in the process, the chattels are broken. The gemara states that the person chasing the rodef does not have to pay for the objects, whether they are owned by the rodef, the person being chased or a third party. The gemara then observes that this is not a true rule of law, but rather that a court must absolve him of making payment because otherwise the person would not attempt to intervene to stop the rodef from killing. Thus the first "good samaritan law" was born.

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