July 23, 2024
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July 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.

This week we learned Zevachim 71. These are some highlights.

A single witness saw Reuven’s ox kill a man; now he sees wolves approaching Reuven’s ox. Does he need to try to save the ox?

Our daf has a Mishnah about mixtures. What is the law when an offering we may not benefit from gets mixed up with kosher sacrifices? What is the law when an animal that cannot be offered on the altar, such as an animal that was exchanged for a dog, gets mixed in with kosher korbanot? What is the law when a korban gets mixed up with animals that are not holy at all? The Mishnah mentions the case of an ox that killed a man, but only one witness saw the ox kill a man; as a result, the ox will not be put to death, while the ox also cannot be offered on the altar. Gemara Bava Kamma teaches that the death of the killing ox is similar to the death of a human who murders. The ox is put on trial. There is a need for two witnesses to testify against him. The ox that is convicted gets stoned, and his remains cannot provide anyone with benefit. If only a single witness saw the ox kill, it cannot be put to death by the court, and the owner can derive benefit from it.

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein wonders about the following case: Yaakov saw Reuven’s ox kill Shimon. He was the only one who saw it. As a single witness, there is nothing to do about the ox. Now Yaakov sees a pack of wolves surrounding Reuven’s ox. It seems Hashem is arranging for justice to be served. Yaakov is armed with a gun. Should Yaakov allow the wolves to kill and eat Reuven’s ox for he knows that the ox is a killer, or perhaps he should take out his gun and shoot in the air? Maybe the ox is not deserving of death in Torah law, and therefore, Yaakov has a mitzvah to preserve the property of Reuven and he should scare off the wolves in order to save the ox.

Rav Zilberstein points out that in addition to the concept of stoning the killing ox, shor haniskal, there might be another reason to see to it that a killing ox gets killed. Hashem has commanded us to put up fences on our roofs. Hashem does not want us to own hazards to health. We were told, “Ubi’arta hara mikirbecha, And you shall obliterate the dangerous from your midst.” A man is not allowed to maintain a dangerous dog in his home. We can suggest that Yaakov should not save the ox, to help Reuven fulfill his mitzvah of “ubi’arta hara mikirbecha, And you shall obliterate the dangerous from your midst.” Since Reuven’s ox has already killed, it is a danger to others. Allowing it to die by the wolves is a favor for Reuven who has been tardy in fulfilling his obligation to obliterate the danger he owns. On the other hand, the mitzvah of returning lost objects really mandates that we do as much as possible to preserve the wealth of our friends. The mandate of “ubi’arta hara mikirbecha” will be fulfilled if Reuven’s ox is dead. It does not need to also get eaten by wolves. Maybe Yaakov is obligated to fire some warning shots over the heads of the wolves to scare them away, and then he should take out a knife and shecht Reuven’s ox. By shechting the ox, some financial value will be preserved since Reuven will be able to eat the meat of his ox.

Ultimately, Rav Zilberstein feels that Reuven’s ox should not be saved. His source is a ruling of the Bi’ur Halacha. Bi’ur Halacha (end of Siman 329) deals with a man who has been sentenced to receive death from the beit din, and an avalanche of stones falls on him on Shabbos. Are we obligated to violate Shabbos in order to remove the stones and save his life? After Shabbos the beit din will put him to death. Should we be violating Shabbos for him? Pri Megadim rules that we are to violate Shabbos to save him. Even momentary life counts. The beit din would not put him to death on Shabbos, therefore we should save him to give him a few more moments of life. The Bi’ur Halacha disagrees. According to Bi’ur Halacha, the Torah cares about moments of life for a person whom Jewish law wants to live. A man who has been sentenced to death by the court is not in this category. Our law does not want him to live. Since our law does not want him to live, we have no right to violate Shabbos to give him a few more moments of life. Rav Zilberstein argues that our Torah wants the killing ox to die. Hashem does not want it to live. Since Hashem does not want it to live, there is no mitzvah of hashavat aveida about it. You are not obligated to try to save some of its value. Hashem wants it dead for it killed a person, and you have no need to do anything to save it. (Chashukei Chemed)

By Rabbi Zev Reichman


 Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.

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