Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Theft in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: An Ox, a Donkey, a Sheep, and a Garment Walk Into a Bar… In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ dissecting the hermeneutics that governs the Talmud’s approach to law.
If a thief steals property, the Bible explains, he is required to pay restitution plus extra damages. Exodus Chapter 22 distinguishes between two cases of theft of livestock. If a thief is found in possession of a stolen animal, he must pay twice its value to the owner; but if he is found to have slaughtered or sold the animal, he must pay a higher multiple, “five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep.” Here again, the Bible speaks of property loss primarily in terms of animals, which makes sense for two reasons: They are relatively easy to steal, because they can move on their own, and they were a common form of property among the pastoral tribesmen of ancient Israel. However, the use of livestock as an example means that the rabbis are compelled to extrapolate the rules for other types of theft. As we have seen several times before, the brief, concrete statements of the Bible must be analyzed in order to figure out their governing principles, which can then be more widely applied.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.