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Hilchot Nizkei Mamon - Chapter One

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Hilchot Nizkei Mamon - Chapter One

In the name of the Lord, the God of the world.
Extend my heart to Your testimonies and not to monetary gain.

The eleventh book which is The Book of of Injuries

It contains five sets of Halachot and this is their order:

The Laws of Nizkei Mamon
The Laws of Genevah
The Laws of Gezelah va'Avedah
The Laws of Chovel uMazzik
The Laws of Rotzeach uShmirat Nefesh

Introduction to Hilchos Nizkei Mamon

[This text] contains four positive commandments; they are:
1) The laws regarding damage caused by [the goring of] an ox,
2) The laws regarding damage caused by the grazing [of an animal],
3) The laws regarding damage caused by a pit,
4) The laws regarding damage caused by fire.

These mitzvot are explained in the chapters [that follow].

בְּשֵׁם יי אֵל עוֹלָם (בראשית כא לג)
הַט לִבִּי אֶל עֵדְו‍ֹתֶיךָ, וְאַל אֶל בָּצַע (תהלים קיט לו)

ספר אחד עשר והוא ספר נזקים

הלכותיו חמש, וזה הוא סידורן:

נזקי ממון
הלכות גניבה
הלכות גזילה ואבידה
הלכות חובל ומזיק
הלכות רוצח ושמירת נפש

הלכות נזקי ממון - הקדמה

יש בכללן ארבע מצות עשה. וזה הוא פרטן
א) דין השור
ב) דין ההבער
ג) דין הבור
ד) דין הבערה

וביאור מצות אלו בפרקים אלו:


Whenever a living animal owned by a person causes damages, the owner is required to pay, for the damage was caused by his property. [This is implied by Exodus 21:35:] "When a person's ox will gore an ox belonging to a colleague...."1 These laws apply equally to an ox and to any other animal, beast or fowl. The verse mentions an ox only because that is a common instance.


כל נפש חיה שהיא ברשותו של אדם שהזיקה הבעלים חייבין לשלם שהרי ממונם הזיק שנאמר כי יגוף שור איש את שור רעהו. אחד השור ואחד שאר בהמה וחיה ועוף לא דיבר הכתוב בשור אלא בהווה:


How much must [the owner] pay? If [the animal] caused damage through the performance of an act that it performs frequently and that is its natural habit - e.g., an animal ate straw or fodder, or it caused damage by [treading on an object] with its feet while walking - [the owner] is obligated to pay the full amount of the damage, [giving up, if necessary,]2 his most choice property, as stated in [Exodus 22:4]: "Payment should be exacted from his choice field and his choice vineyard."3 If [the animal] deviated from its ordinary habit and performed acts that it does not usually perform and caused damage in this manner - e.g., a ox gored or bit [another animal] - the owner is obligated to pay half the damages caused. [The payment must be exacted] from the animal that caused the damage, as [Exodus 21:35] states: "And they shall sell the ox that is alive and divide the money."


וכמה משלם. אם הזיקה בדברים שדרכה לעשותם תמיד כמנהג ברייתה. כגון בהמה שאכלה תבן או עמיר או שהזיקה ברגלה בדרך הילוכה חייב לשלם נזק שלם מן היפה שבנכסיו שנאמר מיטב שדהו ומיטב כרמו ישלם. ואם שינתה ועשתה מעשים שאין דרכה לעשותם תמיד והזיקה בהן. כגון שור שנגח או נשך חייב לשלם חצי נזק מגוף המזיק עצמו שנאמר ומכרו את השור החי וחצו את כספו וגו':


What is implied? When an ox that is worth a maneh4gores an ox that is worth 20 zuz and kills it, [leaving] a corpse that is worth four zuz, the owner of the ox [that caused the damage] is liable to pay eight zuz, half of the loss [suffered by the owner of the ox that was killed]. The payment must be exacted from the body of the animal that caused the damage,5 as it is written: "And they shall sell the ox that is alive."6 Therefore, if an ox that was worth 20 zuz killed an ox that was worth 200 zuz and its carcass was worth [only] a maneh, the owner of the dead ox cannot compel the owner of the living ox to give him 50 [zuz]. Instead, he should tell him: "Here is the ox that caused the damage. Take it and depart."7[This applies] even if the [ox that gored] is worth only a dinar. Similar principles apply in all analogous situations.


כיצד שור שוה מנה שנגח לשור שוה עשרים והמיתו והרי הנבילה שוה ארבעה בעל השור חייב לשלם שמונה שהוא חצי הנזק. ואינו חייב לשלם אלא מגוף השור שהזיק שנאמר ומכרו את השור החי. לפיכך אם המית שור שוה עשרים לשור שוה מאתים ונבלה שוה מנה אין בעל הנבלה יכול לומר לבעל החי תן לי חמשים. אלא אומר לו הרי שור שהזיק לפניך קחהו ולך אפילו אינו שוה אלא דינר. וכן כל כיוצא בזה:


[An animal] that performs a deed it is accustomed to performing by nature is called a mu'ad.8 [When an animal] deviates from its ordinary pattern and performs an act that its species does not usually perform - e.g., an ox gores or bites - it is called a tam.9 If the animal continues to follow the deviant pattern on several occasions, it is considered to be mu'ad with regard to the deviation to which it has become habituated, as [implied by Exodus 21:36]: "Or it is known that it is a goring ox."


העושה מעשה שדרכו לעשותו תמיד כמנהג ברייתו הוא הנקרא מועד. והמשנה ועשה מעשה שאין דרך כל מינו לעשות כן תמיד כגון שור שנגח או נשך הוא הנקרא תם. וזה המשנה אם הרגיל בשינויו פעמים רבות נעשה מועד לאותו דבר שהרגיל בו שנאמר או נודע כי שור נגח הוא:


Five types of activities are considered to be abnormal for an animal. If it repeatedly performs any of them, it is considered to be mu'ad with regard to that activity.10 An animal is not considered to be prone to gore, to butt,11 to bite, to lie down on large utensils or to kick. If it becomes accustomed to such an activity, its owner should be forewarned. At the outset, [an animal] is, however, considered prone to eat foods that are appropriate for it and to break utensils [on which it treads] as it walks. Similarly, an animal is considered prone to lie down on small utensils and crush them.


חמשה מעשים תמים יש בבהמה. ואם הועדה לאחד מהן נעשית מועדת לאותו מעשה ואלו הן. הבהמה אינה מועדת מתחילתה לא ליגח ולא ליגוף ולא לישוך ולא לרבוץ על כלים גדולים ולא לבעוט. ואם הועדה לאחד מהן הרי זו מועדת לו. אבל השן מועדת מתחילתה לאכול את הראוי לה. והרגל מועדת מתחילתה לשבר בדרך הילוכה. והבהמה מועדת מתחילתה לרבוץ על פכין קטנים וכיוצא בהם ולמעך אותן:


Five species of animals are considered prone to cause damage from the beginning of their existence. [This applies] even if they have become domesticated.12 Therefore, if they cause damage or death by goring, biting, treading, lying down upon, or the like, [the owner] is liable for the entire amount of the damages. They are a wolf, a lion, a bear, a tiger and a leopard. Similarly, a snake that bites is considered to be mu'ad, even if it has been domesticated.


חמשה מיני בהמה מועדין מתחלת ברייתן להזיק ואפילו הן בני תרבות. לפיכך אם הזיקו או המיתו בנגיחה או בנשיכה ודריסה וכיוצא בהן חייב נזק שלם. ואלו הן א הזאב והארי והדוב והנמר והברדלס. וכן הנחש שנשך הרי זה מועד ואפילו היה בן תרבות.


Whenever [an animal] is mu'ad, [the owner] must pay the entire amount of the damage, [even if this requires expropriating] his most choice property. Whenever, by contrast, an animal is considered a tam, [the owner] is required to pay [only] half the amount of the damages. [Moreover,] that half is taken only from the animal itself. When does the above apply? When the animal entered into the domain belonging to the person to whom damage was caused, and caused damage. When, however, the person to whom damage was caused entered into the domain of the person [whose animal] caused the damage, [the owner] is not liable for anything. For he can tell [the party who suffered the damages]: "If you had not entered my domain, you would not have suffered any damages." Indeed, this is explicitly stated in the Torah, as [Exodus 22:4] states: "And if he shall send forth his animals, and they pasture in another's field."13


כל מועד משלם נזק שלם מן היפה שבנכסיו. וכל תם משלם חצי נזק מגופו. במה דברים אמורים בשנכנסה הבהמה לרשות הניזק והזיקתהו. אבל אם נכנס הניזק לרשות המזיק והזיקתהו בהמתו של בעל הבית הרי זה פטור על הכל. שהרי הוא אומר לו אילו לא נכנסת לרשותי לא הגיע לך היזק והרי מפורש בתורה ושלח את בעירה ובער בשדה אחר:


[The following rules apply when a person's] animal causes damage in the public domain or in a courtyard that belongs neither to the owner of [the animal that] caused the damage nor to the party who suffered the damages,14 or in a courtyard owned jointly by both parties that is set aside to leave produce there and/or to harbor an animal - e.g., a valley. If [the animal] caused damage by eating or treading in its ordinary manner, the owner is not liable. For [the animal] has permission to go from here to there, and it is the habit of an animal to go and eat as it proceeds and to break [anything lying in its way] as it proceeds.15[Different rules apply if] it [caused damage by] goring, butting, kicking or biting.16 If its status is tam, [the owner] must pay for half the damages. If its status is mu'ad, [the owner] must pay the entire amount of the damages.17


הזיקה ברשות הרבים או בחצר שאינה של שניהם לא למזיק ולא לניזק או בחצר שהיא של שניהן והרי היא מיוחדת להניח בה פירות ולהכניס לה בהמה כגון הבקעה וכיוצא בה. אם בשן ורגל הזיקה כדרכה הרי זה פטור מפני שיש לה רשות להלך [כאן] וכאן ודרך הבהמה להלך ולאכול כדרכה ולשבר בדרך הילוכה. ואם נגחה או נגפה או רבצה או בעטה או נשכה. אם תמה היא משלם חצי נזק ואם מועדת נזק שלם:


When a courtyard owned jointly by both parties18 is designated for produce and not for harboring an animal, and one of the parties lets his animal in and it causes damage, [the owner] is liable even for damage caused by eating or treading.19 Similarly, if both of them had the right to harbor an animal there, but only one had the right to keep produce there, if [an animal belonging to the other] damaged [that person's] produce, [its owner] is liable even for damage caused by eating or treading.20


היתה החצר של שניהן מיוחדת לפירות ולא להכניס בה בהמה והכניס שם אחד מן השותפין בהמתו והזיקה חייב אפילו על השן ועל הרגל. וכן אם היתה מיוחדת לבהמה לשניהם והיה רשות לאחד מהן בלבד להכניס לה פירות והזיקה פירותיו חייב על השן ועל הרגל:


There are three categories of damages [caused by] an ox: a) goring, b) eating and c) treading. The derivatives of goring are butting, biting,21 lying upon and kicking.22The derivatives of eating are23 causing damage when scratching itself on a wall for its benefit, and soiling produce24 for its benefit. The derivatives of treading are25 causing damage with its body while walking; causing damage with its hair while walking or by swishing its tail, or with its saddle, the bit in its mouth or the bell around its neck. Similarly, a donkey that causes damage with its burden while walking or a calf that is pulling a cart that causes damage while pulling it. All of these are derivatives of treading. In a public domain [the owner] is not liable, and in a domain belonging to the party who suffered the damages, he must pay for the entire amount of the damages.


שלשה אבות נזיקין בשור הקרן והשן והרגל. תולדות הקרן נגיפה נשיכה רביצה בעיטה. תולדות השן אם נתחככה בכותל להנאתה והזיקה בחיכוכה. וכן אם טנפה פירות להנאתה. תולדות הרגל הזיקה בגופה דרך הילוכה או שהזיקה בשערה דרך הילוכה או כשכשה בזנבה או באוכף שעליה בפרומביא שבפיה בזוג שבצוארה. וכן חמור שהזיק במשאו בשעת הילוכו ועגלה המושכת בקרון שהזיקה בשעת משיכתה כל אלו תולדות הרגל הן וברשות הרבים פטורין וברשות הניזק משלמין נזק שלם:


When [an animal] swishes its tail repeatedly in an abnormal manner and causes damage in the public domain, or when it swishes its sexual organ and causes damage in the public domain, [the owner] is not held liable. If the person whose property was damaged seizes possession [of property belonging to the owner], he may take payment for half of the damages.26 [The rationale for that ruling is that] there is an unresolved question whether these acts are derivatives of goring, in which case [the owner] is liable [for damage caused] in the public domain, or whether they are derivatives of treading, in which case [the owner] is not liable [for damage caused] in the public domain, as has been explained.27


כשכשה בזנבה כשכוש רב שאין דרכה לעשותה תמיד והזיקה ברשות הרבים. או שכשכשה בגיד שלה ברשות הרבים והזיקה פטור. ואם תפש הניזק גובה חצי נזק ממה שתפש. שזה הדבר ספק הוא אם אלו תולדות הקרן שחייב עליה ברשות הרבים או תולדות הרגל שפטור עליה ברשות הרבים כמו שביארנו:


Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandment 237) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 51) consider this to be one of the Torah's 613 mitzvot. This mitzvah can be defined as compensating an owner for damages caused by one's animals through an action that they would not ordinarily perform.


I.e., the owner is obligated to reimburse the person whose property was damaged for his loss. If the owner does not have cash readily available, his most valuable landed property should be expropriated and sold to pay the damages his animal caused.


Payment of these damages is also considered one of the Torah's 613 mitzvot Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandment 240) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 55). This mitzvah can be defined as compensating an owner for damages caused by one's animals through an action that they would ordinarily perform.


100 zuz.


As the Rambam proceeds to illustrate, the damages caused by the ox do not create a lien on all the property belonging to the owner of the ox.


The commentaries have cited the apparent redundancy in the citation of the proof-text.


Thus the owner of the dead ox receives only the worth of the ox which gored, 20 zuz, 30 zuz less than what would be due him.


Mu'ad literally means forewarned - i.e., the animal is prone to perform such acts, and the owner should be forewarned.


Tam literally means simple, implying that the animal is not habituated in the performance of the abnormal behavior.


I.e., for that activity alone, and not for any other abnormal activity (Maggid Mishneh).


I.e., to attack an animal with a part of its body other than its horns (Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Bava Kama 1:4).


Even when these animals have been raised in a home and do not outwardly show wild traits, their tendency to violence is considered part of their instinct, never to be eradicated fully.The Ramah (Choshen Mishpat 389:8) states that these animals are considered mu'adim only with regard to the specific negative traits for which they are known. If they cause damage in other ways, they are considered as tamim.


This is the verse that describes the payment of damages caused by grazing. It emphasizes that the owner is liable for damages caused in another's field, and not in his own.The Ramah (Choshen Mishpat 389:10) and others cite Bava Kama 21b, which interprets this verse in a more specific and somewhat different manner. It would appear, however, that the Rambam is not referring to the exegesis of the verse by the Talmud, but is instead presenting the simple meaning of the verse as a support for the premise stated previously.


This applies when the party who suffered the damages placed produce there without receiving permission from the owner. If, however, he received permission from the owner, it is considered as though it were his own courtyard. See Shulchan Aruch and Ramah (Choshen Mishpat 389:16).


In the Guide for the Perplexed, Volume III, Chapter 40, the Rambam explains that this law is based on a logical premise. Since this is an animal's natural habit, it is difficult for the owner to prevent his animal from causing such damage. Moreover, the person whose property was damaged should have foreseen the problem and not left anything of value in such places.


For this represents a departure from the animal's natural pattern, for which its owner is held responsible.


Although both types of animals have the right to proceed in the public domain, neither has the right to damage the other animal. Therefore, the owner of the animal that caused the damages must assume responsibility.


I.e., the owner of the animal that caused the damage and the party who suffered the damages.


Since he brought his animal into a place where an animal should not enter, he must bear responsibility.


Since only the other partner was allowed to bring his produce there, in this regard it is considered his courtyard, and the owner of the animal is liable.


When it has no desire to eat, i.e., biting for a violent and destructive intent (Maggid Mishneh).


All these are acts performed by an animal with a desire to harm the animal (or object) it strikes, without any intention to derive any benefit from it.


The acts that follow are damages caused by an animal when it follows its ordinary pattern and seeks its own benefit.


This refers to soiling produce by rolling upon it, not by defecating (Ibid.). Ruining an object by defecating is considered to be a derivative of kicking stones (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 390:8). See Chapter 2, Halachah 13.


All the acts that follow are damages caused by an animal without any intent, that are likely to be caused when it proceeds in an ordinary manner (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 390:1).


As the Rambam proceeds to explain, these instances are the subject of an unresolved Talmudic debate (Bava Kama 19b). Because of the doubt involved, payment is not exacted from the owner, and for this same reason the person whose property was damaged may not seize the owner's property. If, however, he did seize the owner's property, the same rationale is advanced on his behalf. Since the property may rightfully belong to him, because of the doubt, we do not expropriate the property and return it to its owner.In any case, all that is involved is half of the damages, because the reason why one might hold the owner liable is that these activities are derivatives of goring. And for goring, the owner is required to pay only half the value of the damages.The Rambam's opinion is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 390:2). The Ramah cites the opinion of the Ramban and the Tur, who maintain that when a question of law is unresolved, and one party seizes the other's property, the property that was seized must be returned.


See Halachah 8.

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in the one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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