Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Maakeh and Lo Tasim Damim: Severity of Hazards

So, previously we established that there is a debate whether mitzvas of Maakeh and Lo Tasim Damim are or are not essentially linked, with the consequence to what degree they cover the same cases. Now we'll take a look at a related question: what cases do these mitzvot actually cover?

The basic case is that brought in the pasuk itself, that of a house with an accessible roof, where the  obligation is to add a guard rail. Once we move beyond that case, then the questions begin. We'll start with the question of severity and then cover other questions in future posts...

Death or Injury

So are these mitzvot concerned with hazards that can cause any injury or just lethal hazards?

Most rishonim understand the gemara(בבא קמא נ:, נא.) and it's 10 tefach limit as implying that these mitzvot are only concerned with hazards which might cause death.  As the Meiri says there(ד"ה בית)

יראה מכאן שאין מצות מעקה לחשש נזקים אלא לחשש מוות

On the other hand, there is the baraita of Rebbi Natan, brought several places in the gemara(בבא קמא טו:,בבא קמא מו.,כתובות מא:), and used in discussing cases of potential injury, not death:

רבי נתן אומר מניין שלא יגדל אדם כלב רע בתוך ביתו ואל יעמיד סולם רעוע בתוך ביתו ת"ל לא תשים דמים בביתך

The Sefer Hachinuch(תקס"ז) takes these gemaras at face value and includes nezikin under the mitzva of לא תשים דמים, although he still says that מעקה is only concerned with lethal hazards(תקלח).

Rav Soloveichik, on the other hand, explains these gemaras according to the other shita, saying that chachamim made a gezeira extending the issur to include nezikin.

Secondary Sources

Rav Moshe Taragin's Shiur on Lo Tasim Damim

Rav Reuven Taragin's Shiur on Lo Tasim Damim in Bava Kama

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