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Steinsaltz

it is considered legally sold and belongs to the purchaser for all purposes. Similarly, if he consecrated it, it is halakhically consecrated, and all the halakhot of consecrated property apply to it. If he slaughtered it, one is permitted to eat its meat. If a bailee charged with safeguarding it returned it to its owner’s house before the verdict it is considered to be returned, and the owner has no further claim against the bailee.

By contrast, once its verdict has been issued, if the owner sells it, it is not considered sold, since the ox is no longer his. Similarly, if he consecrates it, it is not considered consecrated. If he slaughters it, its meat is forbidden. If a bailee returns it to its owner’s house it is not considered to have been returned, since the ox is considered to have been killed. Rabbi Ya’akov says: Even once its verdict has been issued, if the bailee returns it to its owner it is considered to have been returned.

The Gemara suggests: Let us say that they disagree about this: The Rabbis hold that with regard to items from which it is prohibited to derive benefit one does not say: That which is yours is before you, and no compensation is required. Once the deposited item was rendered forbidden, the bailee cannot return it as is to its owner, claiming that since it has not been physically damaged he has fulfilled his obligation to return it and therefore the owner has no further claims against him. And Rabbi Ya’akov holds that one does say, with regard to items from which it is prohibited to derive benefit: That which is yours is before you.

Rabba said: Clearly, according to everyone, one says with regard to items from which it is prohibited to derive benefit: That which is yours is before you; as, if this was the subject of disagreement, let them dispute this matter with regard to leavened bread on Passover, which is a more common case of an item from which it is prohibited to derive benefit.

Rather, here they disagree with regard to the matter of issuing the verdict for an ox in its absence. The Rabbis hold that the verdict for an ox can be issued only in its presence. Therefore, the bailee is not exempt by returning it after the verdict, as the owner could say to him: If you had returned the ox to me before the verdict I would have smuggled it to the marsh, and the court would not have been able to sentence it to stoning. Now you have let my ox be seized by the court, with whom I cannot engage in litigation.

And Rabbi Ya’akov holds that the verdict for an ox can be issued in its absence. Therefore, the bailee is exempt, as he can say to the owner in response to his claim: Ultimately, they would have issued the verdict anyway, so I did not cause your ox to be stoned by not returning it to you before the verdict.

According to this explanation, what is the reason for the opinion of the Rabbis that the ox’s verdict can be issued only in its presence? The verse states: “The ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:29), indicating that as the death of the owner, i.e., a person, for killing another person, so is the death of the ox for killing a person. Just as the owner is sentenced to death only in his presence, so too, an ox is sentenced to death only in its presence.

And Rabbi Ya’akov holds that the owner and the ox cannot be compared. Granted, the owner must be present when the verdict is issued, as people are able to present claims in their defense; but as for an ox, is it capable of presenting claims? Consequently, it makes no difference whether or not the verdict is issued in its presence.

§ The mishna teaches: If the ox’s owner conveyed it to an unpaid bailee, or to a borrower, or to a paid bailee, or to a renter, they enter into the responsibilities and liabilities in place of the owner. The Sages taught: There are four people who enter into the responsibilities and liabilities in place of the owner, and they are: An unpaid bailee, and a borrower, a paid bailee, and a renter. If the oxen killed people while in the possession of one of these people, if the oxen were innocuous at the time they killed, they are killed and the bailees are exempt from paying ransom. If they were forewarned, they are killed and the bailees pay ransom. And regardless if they were innocuous or forewarned, the bailees are liable to return the value of the ox to its owner, with the exception of an unpaid bailee.

The Sages said: What are the circumstances in which the bailees are liable, with the exception of an unpaid bailee? If he safeguarded the ox appropriately but the ox killed a person anyway, all of the other bailees should also be exempt from reimbursing the owner for the ox and not just an unpaid bailee, as they did everything that was required of them. And if he did not safeguard it properly, even the unpaid bailee should be liable, as he was also required to safeguard it.

The Sages said in response: Here we are dealing with a case where the bailee provided reduced safeguarding and did not provide superior safeguarding. In this case the unpaid bailee has fulfilled his safeguarding duties; since he does not receive anything in exchange this level of safeguarding is sufficient. Those other bailees, who have a greater responsibility, have not fulfilled their required level of safeguarding.

The Sages said, in clarification of the baraita: In accordance with whose opinion is this baraita? If it is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Meir,

Talmud - Bavli - The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren No=C3=A9 Talmud
with commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Israel (CC-BY-NC 4.0)
אדם סלומון
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