Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Talmud on safe spaces and animal damages

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Shock of Recognition. As the ‘Daf Yomi’ cycle returns to a familiar anecdote about a camel causing a fire, it reveals the Talmud’s complex web of interlaced elements as more than a compendium of laws.
Here one of the Talmud’s perennial concerns—the difference between public and private domains, which plays such a central role in Shabbat law—intersects with the main subject of Bava Kamma, which is damage caused by negligence. At issue is what in American law is called “the standard of care”: How much precaution do you have to take to ensure that your lamp doesn’t cause a fire? Lighting a lamp inside your own home is presumptively safe, because it’s very unlikely that a camel carrying flax will walk through your living room and catch fire. But lighting a lamp that is hung from the front door, or displayed in an open window, is presumptively reckless, because it’s reasonable to expect that a flax-laden camel would be walking down the street. It’s only on Hanukkah that the mitzvah of displaying a menorah in the window overrides this principle.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.