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Hilchot Nizkei Mamon - Chapter Thirteen

Hilchot Nizkei Mamon - Chapter Thirteen


1. When utensils fall into a cistern and break, the owner of the cistern is not liable.1 [This is derived from Exodus 21:33, which] states: "And an ox or a donkey fell there." The Oral Tradition interprets2 this as an exclusion: "'An ox' and not a man;3 'a donkey' and not utensils." Even when an ox fell [into a cistern] when carrying utensils and died and broke the utensils, the owner is liable for the ox, but not for the utensils.

2. A cistern is considered one of the general categories of causes of damage. Its derivatives, like it, are considered mu'adim from the outset. Whenever a person leaves an obstacle [in the path of other living beings], it is considered to be a derivative of a cistern.4 If a person or an animal is injured because of it, the person who caused the obstacle to exist is liable, whether or not he renounced ownership of it. If it caused damage to utensils, [the person responsible] is not held liable.

3. What is implied? When a person leaves his stone, his knife, his straw, his burden or the like in the public domain, and they cause injury to another human or to an animal, [the first person] is liable for the full amount of the damages.

Similarly, if he left such items on his property and declared his property - but not these items - ownerless, and a person stumbled on the ground5 and received a blow from such an item that caused him injury, the person who caused the obstacle to exist is liable. If the person's utensils became damaged or soiled in such a situation, [the person who caused the obstacle to exist] is not liable.

4. If a person brought his ox into a courtyard belonging to another person without permission, the ox defecated, and the feces soiled utensils belonging to the owner, [the owner of the ox] is not liable. For the feces are considered to be a derivative of a cistern, and [the owner of] a cistern is never liable for damage to utensils.

5. [The following laws apply when a person] leaves his jug in the public domain, and a passerby stumbles over it and breaks it. The passerby is not liable, because it is not the practice of people to look out on the way as they walk.

If [the passerby] was injured, the owner of the jug is liable for his injury. [This applies] even if he declared his jug ownerless. For whenever a person declares ownerless an obstacle that he has created in a domain in which he has no permission to place it at the outset,6 he is liable, as if he had never declared it ownerless.

6. If the person placed the jug down in a place where he had permission to place it - e.g., the marketplace before the wine vats or the like7 - and a passerby stumbles over it and breaks it, [the passerby] is liable. If the passerby was injured, the owner of the jug is not liable, because [the passerby] should have looked to see [if there was anything in his way].8

If it was dark or [if the owner of the jugs] filled the entire path with jugs, the passerby is not liable for breaking it. If he is injured, the owner of the jugs is liable.9 Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

7. [The following rules apply when] a jug belonging to a person breaks [accidentally] in the public domain, and another person slips on the water [that spilled] or receives a blow from its shards. The owner cannot be held liable by an earthly court, because [the jug] was broken by accident.10 He has, however, a moral and a spiritual obligation, because he did not gather the shards.11 The shards and the water are like ownerless entities, [even though] he did not rescind his ownership until after the accident, he is not held liable. If he intended to take possession of the shards, and another person was damaged by them, he is liable.

Similar laws apply to a person whose camel fell and he did not raise it up, or the like.12 In all these situations, if utensils were damaged, the owner of the obstacle is not liable, whether he declared his object ownerless or not, as we have explained.13

8. [The following laws apply when] two potters were following each other on a path, the first tripped and fell, and the second tripped over the first. If the first could have stood up but failed to do so, he is liable for the damages suffered by the second. Although he accidentally fell, the accident did not [force him to remain] lying in the road. [Therefore,] since he could have stood up, [he is liable].14

If he was unable to have risen [before the second potter tripped over him], he is not liable. [This applies] even though he did not warn [the potter] who tripped over him. [The rationale is] that he is concerned with his own [difficulties].15

9. When do we say that he is liable for the damages to the second [potter]? When he suffers damage to his body. If, however, his utensils are damaged, [the first potter] is not liable. For [an owner of] a cistern is not liable for the damage to utensils, and any obstacle is considered to be a derivative of a cistern, as explained above.16

10. [The following rules apply when] potters, glass blowers and the like were walking one after the other, the first one tripped and fell, the second tripped over the first one, and the third tripped over the second. Each of them had time to stand up, but failed to do so.

The first is liable for the damages to the body of the second, regardless of whether he was injured by the body of the first person who is lying on the earth,17 or he was injured by his burden.18

The second is liable for the injuries suffered by the body of the third person if he was injured by the second person's body. If, however, he was injured by the second person's burden, [the second person] is not liable. For he will say: "I did not dig this cistern - i.e., my burden." For it was the first person who caused the second person and his burden to fall.19

In all cases, [if the person who fell] warned [the person who tripped over him or his burden], [the person who fell] is not liable.

11. If the first person fell and was lying lengthwise across the road and one person tripped over his head, another [tripped] over his legs and a third over his abdomen, he is liable for the injuries each suffered, for he had the potential to arise.

12. When a person pours water into the public domain, and another person is injured by it, [the one who poured out the water] is liable for the damages.20 If the other person's garments were soiled, [the one who poured out the water] is not liable, as we have explained.21

If the water was absorbed by the earth, but the earth remained slippery,22 and a person slipped and fell and was injured by the ground, [the one who poured out the water] is liable.23

13. All those who open their sewage vats and rake out their cesspools do not have permission to pour this water into the public domain during the summer months.24 In the rainy season, a person has permission [to release such sewage].25 Nevertheless, if a person or an animal is damaged by the water, the one who released it is responsible for the entire sum of the damages.26

14. A person should not take his straw and hay out to the public domain so that it will be trod upon and become fit to use as fertilizer. If he did take it out, our Sages penalized him and declared the straw to be ownerless. The first person to take possession of it acquires it as his own, once it has been trod upon and its value has increased.27 If a person took possession of it before that time - i.e., directly after it was taken out to the public domain - it should not be expropriated from him.28

Although the straw and the hay are ownerless, if [they cause damage to] a person or an animal, the person who brought it out [to the public domain] must compensate [for the damages].29

15. A person may take out compost and manure to the public domain at a time when everyone does so and amass them there for 30 days so that they will be trodden upon by people and animals. Although [permission is granted], if these substances cause damage the owner is liable for the damages.

[If another person takes] this manure,30 he is liable for theft. Since its value will not increase [appreciably] by being trodden upon, [our Sages] did not penalize him [by declaring it ownerless].31

16. Mortar may not be left to soak in the public domain, nor may bricks be fashioned there.32 One may, however, mix mortar33 in the public domain. One may not, however, mix bricks.

17. When a person constructs a building in the public domain, the one who brings stones may bring stones, and the one who builds may build. If any of them causes damage, they are obligated to pay for the entire sum of the damages.34

18. When a quarrier hews out a stone and gives it to a stonecutter, and it causes damage to a human or an animal, the stonecutter is liable.

If the stonecutter gives it to a donkey-driver35 [and it causes damage], the donkey-driver is liable. If the donkey-driver gives it to a porter36 [and it causes damage], the porter is liable. If the porter gives it to a builder [and it causes damage], the builder is liable. If the builder gives it to the person who positions it on the building [and it causes damage], the latter is liable.

If they were working as contractors [in a partnership], and after it was positioned in its place on the building it fell and caused damage, they all share in the liability.37 If they are hired laborers, the one [who positioned the stone in its place] is liable, and the others are not liable.38

19. When a wall or a tree falls into the public domain and causes damage,39 the owner is not required to compensate [for the damages].40 [This applies] even when he declared [the tree or the wall] ownerless.41 [The rationale is that these entities] do not resemble a cistern, for at the outset, [it is not likely] that they will cause damage.

If they were not sturdy, the court sets a time for the person by which he must cut down the tree and tear down the wall. How much time is granted him? Thirty days.42 If the tree or the wall falls within this time and causes damage, he is not liable. [If it falls] afterwards, he is liable, because he delayed [beyond the limits set].

20. When a person places thorns or glass [within a wall], or when a person makes a fence of thorns that project into the public domain, and it causes damage to another person,43 he is liable for the full extent of the damages.

If he makes a fence of thorns that are contained within his property,44 he is not held liable, for it is not ordinary for people to rub against a wall [in the public domain].

21. [The following laws apply when] a person hid his thorns and [fragments of] glass in a wall belonging to a colleague, the owner of the wall came and tore down his wall into the public domain, and [the thorns or glass] caused damage. If the wall was shaky,45 the person who hid [the thorns or glass] is liable. If the wall was strong, its owner is liable.46

22. The pious men47 of the early generations would bury thorns and [fragments of] glass in their fields [at least] three handbreadths below the ground, so they would not be lifted up by a plow. Others would burn them in fire. Still others would throw them to the sea or to the river so that other people would not be injured by them.

23. A person should not clear stones from his private property into the public domain.48

One should not dig a cavity, a cistern, a trench or a cave under the public domain.49 [This applies] even when [the covering of the cavity is so strong] that it can support a carriage laden with stones, for there is the possibility that [at a later date] it will open from below without his knowledge.

It is permitted for a person to dig a cistern for the needs of people at large.50

24. One should not build projections and balconies that protrude into the public domain unless it is possible for a camel and its rider51 to pass beneath, and provided it does not cast shadows on the people in the public domain.

If he desires, he can withdraw the walls [of his building into his own domain] and build [the projection].52 If he did withdraw the walls [of his building], but has not built [a projection], he may do so at any time he desires. Never, however, may he return the walls to their original place. Once people at large have been granted permission to pass through a particular property, it cannot be withdrawn.53

25. When a person purchased a courtyard with projections and balconies protruding into the public domain, we operate under the presumption [that they were built legally].54 If the building falls, he is allowed to rebuild it according to its original proportions.

26. When [the foliage of] a tree leans into the public domain, it should be trimmed so that a camel and its rider can pass under it.

An empty space should be left next to the banks on both sides of a river wide enough for the crewmen who descend and pull a boat.55 Any tree that is found in this space should be cut down immediately. A warning need not be given to its owner,56 for it blocks the crewmen from pulling ships.

27. [The following rules apply when] there was a path for people at large passing through a person's field, he expropriated the path and prepared a new path at the side of the field. What he granted them, they acquire possession of,57 but he does not acquire possession of [the land] he took.

How wide is a path for people at large? Not less than sixteen cubits.58

1. Similarly, as stated in the following halachah, the owner of thecistern is not held liable if the utensils are damaged. With regard toa human, by contrast, the owner is liable for damages. (See Chapter12, Halachah 16; Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 410:21.)
2. See Bava Kama 28b, 53b.
3. See Chapter 12, Halachah 16.
4. See the Tur (Choshen Mishpat 410), which defines thederivatives of a cistern as including any property that causesdamage in its place, which does not move. Although the Rambammentions a moving obstacle in Chapter 2, Halachah 19, the intentis that the obstacle is being moved by another force.
5. The person stumbled on the earth, and this is what caused theinjury. Nevertheless, since the earth is ownerless, he collects thedamages from the person who left the obstacle in its place. Were itnot for the obstacle, the damage would not have taken place.
6. If, however, he left a jug on his own property and then declared itownerless, he is not liable. At the outset, he had permission to leavethe jug there. See Chapter 12, Halachah 2.
7. I.e. a place in front of oil vats or beehives, where jugs of oil orhoney would be filled.
8. Although, as stated above, it is not the general practice forpeople to watch for obstacles as they walk, since jugs are often lefton the ground in places like these, a passerby should watch his step(Kessef Mishneh).
9. In the dark, the owner of the jugs should have removed them beforenightfall, for he knows that a passerby will not be able to see. If hefilled the path with jugs, he made it likely that a person would breaka jug as he passed by.Note the quotation of this law in the Shulchan Aruch(Choshen Mishpat 412:2). There a further category is added: aninstance where a person places so many jugs in the road that it isimpossible for people to pass without breaking some of the jugs: thepasserby is not liable even if he intentionally broke enough jugs toallow him to pass.
10. Since the jug broke accidentally, the owner is not considerednegligent with regard to the damages that were caused. For thisreason, the laws stated in Halachah 5 are not applied to him.
11. If he did not have time to gather the shards before the otherperson was injured, he does not have such a moral obligation(Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 412:4.)
12. For the camel, like the broken pitcher, fell accidentally as thepitcher broke, and is thus considered to be an obstacleunintentionally placed in the public domain. Bava Kama 29astates that this is speaking of an instance where the camel died, andits owner rescinded his ownership over its carcass. Otherwise, hewould be held liable.
13. Halachah 1.
14. I.e., his body is considered like an obstacle in the publicdomain.
15. Although one might think that he could have been held liable fornot warning his colleague, this presumption is not accepted. Hisconcern for his own welfare takes priority. Rabbenu Asher (and hisopinion is accepted by the Tur and the Ramah ChoshenMishpat 413:1) differs and maintains that if the first potterhad the opportunity to warn the second and failed to do so, he isliable.
16. Halachah 2. Implied by the Rambam's wording in this halachah (andthe following one) is that the body of the first potter is consideredto be an obstacle. He is not considered to have caused damage to hiscolleague with his person.
17. This reflects the concept mentioned in the previous note. Aperson's body is considered to be an obstacle. Therefore, the Rambammentions damage to the body of the second person, implying that if thesecond person's utensils were damaged, the first would not be heldliable.
18. From Halachah 7, it would appear that this ruling applies onlywhen the potter did not declare his wares ownerless. See the Ra'avad,the Maggid Mishneh, the Tur and the Ramah (ChoshenMishpat 413:2).
19. This argument does not apply, however, with regard to injurycaused by the body of the second person. Since he had time to rise, heis liable for the injuries suffered.
20. In this instance, there is no difference whether or not the persondeclared the water ownerless, as reflected in Halachot 2 and 7.
21. For the owner of a derivative of a cistern is not liable fordamages to property (Halachot 1 and 2).
22. The Ra'avad explains that this ruling applies only when the groundis still muddy because of the water. The Maggid Mishneh states that even when the water has been absorbed totally, if the ground is still slippery, the person is liable. The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 412:5) appears to follow the Ra'avad's view.
23. Although the ground did not belong to him, since the fall wascaused by the water that he poured, he is liable.
24. During these months, the streets are clean and it is forbidden forsomeone to soil them. Moreover, in Eretz Yisrael it does notrain during these months, and the sewage will remain in the streetsfor months.
25. For the streets are muddy at that time, and there is water flowingto wash away the sewage. Needless to say, as our sewage and sidewalkshave become more sophisticated, the relevance of these laws hasfaded.
26. Although our Sages granted a person permission to release hissewage at this time, they did not absolve him of responsibility.
27. There is an unresolved difference of opinion among the Sages(Bava Kama 30b) if the penalty takes effect from the time thestraw was taken out, or from the time it became useful asfertilizer.Note the Tur and the Ramah (Choshen Mishpat 414:1), whostate that at the outset a person who asks whether he may take thestraw and the hay, should not be told that he may retain possession ofits initial value. Instead, he should be told that he may keep onlythe increment. After the fact, he is allowed to keep the initial valueas well.
28. The Tur and the Ramah differ with regard to this point as well and maintain that in this instance, the straw should be expropriated from the person who took possession of it.
29. Whenever damage is caused by an object that was declared ownerlessafter being placed in the public domain without permission, the personwho placed it there is liable.
30. As stated in Hilchot Gezelah 6:5, this applies even if aperson takes his compost out at a time when it is forbidden to do so.A person who takes it is liable for theft.
31. The Tur and the Ramah (Choshen Mishpat 414:2) statethat if the compost causes damage, it is considered to be ownerless,and it may be taken by another person.
32. For these will remain in the public domain for an extendedperiod.
33. To be used for building in the near future.
34. In this instance as well, the license to perform an activity inthe public domain does not absolve a person of liability.
35. To transport to a construction site.
36. To carry it to the builder.
37. If they were partners, once the task is completed they all sharein the responsibility. Until the entire task is completed, however,the person who is responsible for the activity at the time the damagewas caused must pay for the damages, even when they were allpartners.
38. I.e., each person is liable for the portion of the task that heperforms.
39. The Maggid Mishneh emphasizes that this applies when damageis caused by the tree or the wall as it falls. After it falls and thetree or the stones are lying in the public domain, the owner is notliable, if he declares them ownerless.
40. This is considered an oness, a loss due to forces beyond hiscontrol. The Maggid Mishneh clarifies that this applies onlywhen the wall was constructed properly to begin with. When, however,it is built faultily, the owner is liable.
41. Generally, despite the fact that a person declares an obstacle that he created in the public domain as ownerless, he is liable. In this instance, however,since he had permission to plant the tree or build the wall, and itfell because of forces beyond his control, he is not heldresponsible.The Maggid Mishneh explains that the owner is liable, if he desires toestablish his possession over the entities which fell.The Tur and the Ramah (loc. cit.) differ.
42. As Bava Metzia 118a states, this is the ordinary timegranted by the court to adjust difficulties.
43. The thorns or glass that projects is considered to be an obstacleplaced in the public domain.
44. Even if they project beyond the wall itself, as long as they arecontained within the owner's property, he is not liable.
45. And thus one could assume that it would be torn down in the nearfuture.
46. The owner of the thorns or glass is not liable, because he had noreason to think that someone would tear down a sturdy wall. If thedamage was done when the wall was being destroyed, the owner of thewall is liable, because he should have taken care that no passersbywere hurt. If the damage was done after the wall was destroyed, theowner of the wall is liable, because he was responsible for clearingthe debris remaining from his wall (Tur, Beit Yosef, ChoshenMishpat 415).
47. I.e., men who went beyond the measure of the law. This teaching isbased on the examples of sages cited by Bava Kama 30a.
48. Lest another person stumble over them and be injured.
49. The Ramah (Choshen Mishpat 417:1) states that in his era, ithad already become customary to dig below the streets of the publicdomain. This is surely the case in our age, when engineering hasprogressed to the point that safety is not compromised by digging inthis manner.
50. E.g., to provide travelers with drinking water.This law is stated in a separate paragraph, because as is stated inthe Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat410:7, but see 417:1), it is a separate clause, and not a continuationof the previous idea. The Tur and the Shulchan Aruch alsomention that the person must cover the cistern and entrust the coverto the trustees of the people at large, or at the very least informthe court that he has dug a cistern for people, but is expecting thecourt to arrange for its being covered.
51. A camel was the highest popular means of conveyance in Talmudictimes. Needless to say, in every era, the height should be adjusted to fit the highest contemporary means of conveyance, e.g., in the present era, allowances should be made for semi-trailers.
52. I.e., knock down the existing walls and build new walls furtherremoved from the public domain.
53. If, however, people do not frequently walk through this space(e.g., the person prevented that by building a platform there), he mayrebuild the walls in their original place when he desires RabbenuYerucham; Beit Yosef, Ramah (Choshen Mishpat 417:2).
54. I.e., that the person who originally constructed the buildingbuilt its walls removed from the public domain, so that theprotrusions and balconies were permitted.
55. I.e., the rivers of Eretz Yisrael and Babylon were for themost part neither wide nor deep. When a ship wanted to dock, severalof its crewmen would descend and they would pull the ship to the riverbank by ropes. This halachah requires that enough empty space be leftalong the river banks to allow these crewmen to maneuver. FromHilchot Geneivah 8:2, it appears that we are speaking about fourcubits.
56. This can be derived by the conduct of Rabbah bar Rav Nachman(Bava Metzia 108a), who cleared space without informing theowner of the property.
57. See Halachah 24.
58. This is derived from the width of the public thoroughfare in thecamp of the Jews in the desert.
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