For the week ending 3 September 2016 / 30 Av 5776

Bava Kama 93 - 99

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • When one invites another to harm him or his property
  • How the change in an item affects compensation for theft and other halachic issues
  • The break given to repentant thieves and usurers
  • When the stolen item increased in value while in the thief's possession
  • Changes in stolen slaves, animals and coins
  • Compensation for unauthorized use of someone's slave or ship
  • Which coins are valid for redeeming second tithe produce
  • Damages for which there is no need to compensate
  • Returning a stolen item which no longer has any value
  • Craftsmen who damage the item they were given to create or repair
  • When one is guilty of violating the Torah ban on belated payment of wages
  • When payment is due for one contracted to create jewelry or other items
  • Responsibility of the coin expert who mistakenly misleads a client regarding value of coins

Helping the Repentant Sinner

  • Bava Kama 94b

Helping a sinner repent his ways has been a major concern of Torah Sages throughout the generations. A striking example of such concern is the decree issued in the time of Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi (Rebbie) that advised victims to refuse payment from thieves and usurers in order to avoid discouraging them from mending their ways.

Our gemara cites an incident which serves as a background for this initiative. A thief who told his wife that he intended to repent and compensate his victims was given this strange warning: "You empty one, if you repent even your belt will no longer belong to you." His abandonment of his plan to repent led to the above-mentioned decree.

Maharsha explains the use of the terms "empty one" and "your belt" used by the wife in the following manner:

It was the custom to carry money in a hollow belt. The amount of compensation that this repentant thief would have taken upon himself would have required him to empty out all the money from his belt and give up his belt as well.

Although this story did not have a happy ending for this particular thief, it did provide a happy ending for future thieves bent on repentance.

What the Sages Say

"One who calls upon Heaven to act against his adversary is punished first as we find in the case of Sarah who expressed a complaint against Avraham and died before him."

  • Rabbi Chanan - Bava Kama 93a

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