Vayechi_5773: Of Trees, Oxen, Pits and avoiding pitfalls

Taste of Parasha

Yosef is compared to an ox with strong and beautiful horns.  Moshe Rabbeinu says of him “Bechor shoro hadar lo” (Deut. 33:17).  Rashi explains that this is referring to the strength of his descendant Yehoshua who was the leader of the Jewish nation in their magnificent and miraculous uprooting of the seven nations from the land of Israel.  In Yaakov Avinu’s final words to Yosef, Yaakov blesses him for having valiantly fought a battle with his evil inclination.   Yaakov notes the fact that Yosef tapped in to the strength bequeathed to him by his illustrious predecessors in order to vanquish the evil inclination.  In recognition of this strength and fortitude Yaakov Avinu blessed Yosef’s descendants to be numerous and strong.  The first Mishna in the fourth chapter of Pirkei Avos says, “Who is a strong man?  One who conquers his evil inclination, as it King Solomon said, “One who is slow to anger is better than a strong man and one who rules his spirit is greater than one who conquers a city.”  It may not be glamorous, glitzy or make headlines but when you stand strong, when you control your passions and guard the purity of your holy soul you are accomplishing great things.  You are a true hero to yourself, your family and most importantly to G-d.



Taste of Talmud

A person is responsible to make sure that he does not damage anyone or their property.  A person is also responsible to ascertain that his possessions do not damage anyone or their property.  Furthermore, one who is using a dangerous substance such as fire must ensure that it is controlled and will not damage anyone or their property.   The first Mishna in Bava Kama lists the four main categories of damages: Shor, ox; Bor, a pit; Maveh, human; and Hever, fire. The Mishna then writes a general rule:  If you are the one responsible for something that could cause damage, if it causes damages, you are responsible to pay for the damages with the best of your fields (i.e. cash or cash equivalent).   The Talmud asks: What does this rule include that has not been taught?  The Talmud answers that this rule is coming to include those things that are not exactly like an ox, fire, or pit, but have some characteristics of two or three of them. On page 6a the Amoraim give us some examples of such hybrid cases of damages…

Taste of Halacha

If a man leaves a package unsecured on top of a roof and an ordinary wind comes along and blows it off the roof: If the package damages someone on its way down that would be comparable to damaging someone else with a fire that you created.  Both involve an object with the capabilities to damage that were not secured and involved an outside force that turned them into a damaging projectile.  If, however, someone tripped over the package after it landed then it becomes a hybrid damage.  It became like a pit in a public domain due to your negligence and an outside force.  Another case of a hybrid damage involves a person who receives a notice that his tree must be removed because it is in danger of falling.  If a) he does not comply and does not remove it and then b) the tree fell into a public domain and c) he relinquishes his ownership from it, then, it is similar to pit in a public domain.  Unlike a pit however, when you planted the tree by the side of the road it was not inherently a bad thing; whereas a pit which is dug in the middle of a road is.  In this respect it is more like owning an ox which could be used for good things and is only bad if it is not guarded and used appropriately.   The Halacha is that the owner is responsible for damages of “hybrids” as well.

This week’s issue is dedicated as a merit for: Esther Golda bas Devorah Shulamis

Have A Great Shabbos!!


About tasteofyeshiva

RABBI YAIR FRIEDMAN teaches in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in YES and is the president of Visionary Reading. He was a Rebbi at The Torah School of Greater Washington, and a founding member of the Greater Washington Community Kollel he is the director of Yeshiva L' Baalei Batim and the owner of Camp Gevaldig LLC.
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