The following rules apply when a watchman claims that the entrusted article was destroyed by a major factor over which he had no control - e.g., it was broken or it died. If the loss occurred in a place where witnesses are ordinarily present, we require him to bring proof to support his claim that it was destroyed by factors beyond his control. He is then freed of liability, even for a watchman's oath. If he does not bring proof, he is required to make restitution, as Exodus 22:9-10 states: "If there are none who see, the oath of God will be between the two of them." This implies that in a place where it is possible to bring proof, he cannot free himself of responsibility by taking an oath. Either he brings proof or he makes restitution.

If, however, the watchman claims that the article was destroyed in a place where witnesses are not ordinarily present, we do not require him to prove his claim. Instead, he must take an oath that it was destroyed by factors beyond his control, and then he is freed of responsibility. If he brings witnesses who testify that he was not negligent in his care for the article, he is not liable; he is not even required to take an oath.

An incident occurred with regard to a person who was hired to transfer a jug of wine and it broke in the market place of Mechuzah. The matter was brought before the Sages and they said that people are ordinarily present in the market place where the watchman claimed that the jug was broken. Hence they required him to either bring proof that he was not negligent, but instead stumbled and fell or make restitution. Similar principles apply in all analogous situations.


שׁוֹמֵר שֶׁטָּעַן שֶׁנֶּאֱנַס אֹנֶס גָּדוֹל כְּגוֹן שְׁבוּרָה וּמֵתָה. אִם נֶאֱנַס בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁהָעֵדִים מְצוּיִין שָׁם מַצְרִיכִין אוֹתוֹ רְאָיָה עַל טַעֲנָתוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱנַס וְיִפָּטֵר אַף מִשְּׁבוּעַת שׁוֹמְרִים וְאִם לֹא הֵבִיא רְאָיָה יְשַׁלֵּם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כב ט) "אֵין רֹאֶה" (שמות כב י) "שְׁבֻעַת ה' תִּהְיֶה בֵּין שְׁנֵיהֶם" הָא בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר לְהָבִיא רְאָיָה אֵין שָׁם שְׁבוּעָה אֶלָּא אוֹ יָבִיא רְאָיָה אוֹ יְשַׁלֵּם. אֲבָל אִם טָעַן שֶׁנֶּאֱנַס בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁאֵין הָעֵדִים מְצוּיִין שָׁם אֵין מַצְרִיכִין אוֹתוֹ רְאָיָה אֶלָּא יִשָּׁבַע שֶׁנֶּאֱנַס וְיִפָּטֵר. וְאִם הֵבִיא עֵדִים שֶׁלֹּא פָּשַׁע בָּהּ נִפְטָר אַף מִן הַשְּׁבוּעָה. מַעֲשֶׂה בְּאֶחָד שֶׁהֵבִיא חָבִית שֶׁל יַיִן בְּשָׂכָר וּשְׁבָרָהּ בַּשּׁוּק שֶׁל מְחוֹזָא וּבָאוּ לִפְנֵי חֲכָמִים וְאָמְרוּ שׁוּק זֶה שֶׁטָּעַנְתָּ שֶׁנִּשְׁבְּרָה בּוֹ חָבִית בְּנֵי אָדָם מְצוּיִין שָׁם אוֹ תָּבִיא רְאָיָה שֶׁלֹּא פָּשַׁעְתָּ אֶלָּא נִתְקַלְתָּ וְנָפַלְתָּ אוֹ תְּשַׁלֵּם דָּמֶיהָ. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:


When a person is hired to transfer a jug from place to place for a wage, and the jug is broken, according to Scriptural Law, he should be required to pay. For this is not a major factor that is beyond the porter's control; breaking an article is equivalent to its being stolen or lost, for which he is liable.

Nevertheless, our Sages ordained that the porter should be liable merely to take an oath that he was not negligent in caring for it. For if he were required to make financial restitution, no person would ever carry a jug for a colleague. Therefore, the Sages ordained that the breaking of a jug is equivalent to the death or the injury of an animal.

With regard to this matter, our Sages also ordained that if two people were carrying a jug with shafts, and it was broken, they should pay half the damages. For since this burden is very great for one person, but light for two people, it can be considered both similar and dissimilar to a loss due to factors beyond one's control. Therefore, if there are witnesses who testify that they were not negligent, they should pay half the damages.

If the jug was broken in a place where witnesses are not ordinarily present, the porters must take an oath that they did not break it through negligence. Afterwards, they are required to pay half the damages. For each one of them should not have attempted to transport anything more than a burden that he could transport on his own. From this, one can derive that when a person transports a large jug that a porter would not ordinarily transport, he is considered to be negligent. If it breaks in his hands, he must make full restitution.


הַמַּעֲבִיר חָבִית מִמָּקוֹם לְמָקוֹם בְּשָׂכָר וְנִשְׁבְּרָה דִּין תּוֹרָה הוּא שֶׁיְּשַׁלֵּם שֶׁאֵין זֶה אֹנֶס גָּדוֹל וַהֲרֵי הַשְּׁבִירָה כִּגְנֵבָה וַאֲבֵדָה שֶׁהוּא חַיָּב בָּהֶן. אֲבָל תִּקְּנוּ חֲכָמִים שֶׁיִּהְיֶה חַיָּב שְׁבוּעָה שֶׁלֹּא פָּשַׁע בָּהּ שֶׁאִם אַתָּה אוֹמֵר יְשַׁלֵּם אֵין לְךָ אָדָם שֶׁיַּעֲבִיר חָבִית לַחֲבֵרוֹ לְפִיכָךְ עָשׂוּ בּוֹ שְׁבִירַת הֶחָבִית כְּמִיתַת הַבְּהֵמָה וּשְׁבִירָתָהּ. וְעוֹד תִּקְּנוּ בְּדָבָר זֶה שֶׁאִם נָשְׂאוּ אוֹתָהּ שְׁנַיִם בְּמוֹט וְנִשְׁבְּרָה מְשַׁלְּמִין חֲצִי דָּמֶיהָ הוֹאִיל וּמַשּׂוֹי זֶה גָּדוֹל לְגַבֵּי אֶחָד וְקַל לְגַבֵּי שְׁנַיִם הֲרֵי הוּא כְּאֹנֶס וְאֵינוֹ אֹנֶס וּמְשַׁלְּמִין מֶחֱצָה אִם יֵשׁ עֵדִים שֶׁלֹּא פָּשְׁעוּ בָּהּ. נִשְׁבְּרָה בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁאֵין הָעֵדִים מְצוּיִין נִשְׁבָּעִין שֶׁלֹּא שְׁבָרוּהָ בִּפְשִׁיעָה וּמְשַׁלְּמִין חֲצִי דָּמֶיהָ. שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא הָיָה לְכָל אֶחָד לְהַעֲבִיר אֶלָּא מַשּׂוֹי שֶׁיָּכוֹל לְהַעֲבִירוֹ בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ. מִכָּאן אַתָּה לָמֵד שֶׁהָאֶחָד שֶׁהֶעֱבִיר חָבִית גְּדוֹלָה שֶׁאֵין דֶּרֶךְ כָּל הַסַּבָּלִים לְהַעֲבִירָהּ שֶׁהוּא פּוֹשֵׁעַ וְאִם נִשְׁבְּרָה בְּיָדוֹ מְשַׁלֵּם הַכּל:


The following rules apply when a porter breaks a jug of wine belonging to a merchant and was obligated to make restitution, and the jug was worth four zuzim on a market day, and three zuzim on other days. If he makes restitution on a market day, he must give him either a jug of wine or four zuzim This applies if the merchant does not possess other wine to sell on the market day. If the merchant possesses other wine, the porter is required to pay only three. If the porter makes restitution on another day, he is required to return only three.

Whenever the porter makes restitution, a deduction is made for the effort the merchant would have to undertake in selling the jug, the damage the hole causes in the jug, and other similar matters.


הַסַּבָּל שֶׁשָּׁבַר חָבִית שֶׁל יַיִן לְחֶנְוָנִי וְנִתְחַיֵּב לְשַׁלֵּם וַהֲרֵי הִיא שָׁוָה בְּיוֹם הַשּׁוּק אַרְבָּעָה וּבִשְׁאָר הַיָּמִים שְׁלֹשָׁה אִם הֶחְזִירוֹ בְּיוֹם הַשּׁוּק חַיָּבִין לְהַחְזִיר חָבִית שֶׁל יַיִן אוֹ יְשַׁלְּמוּ לוֹ אַרְבָּעָה וְהוּא שֶׁלֹּא הָיָה לוֹ יַיִן לִמְכֹּר בְּיוֹם הַשּׁוּק אֲבָל אִם הָיָה לוֹ יַיִן מַחֲזִירִין לוֹ שְׁלֹשָׁה. הֶחְזִירוּ לוֹ בִּשְׁאָר הַיָּמִים מַחֲזִירִין לוֹ שְׁלֹשָׁה וּמְנַכִּין לוֹ בְּכָל זְמַן טֹרַח שֶׁהָיָה טוֹרֵחַ בִּמְכִירָתָהּ וּפְגַם הַנֶּקֶב שֶׁהָיָה נוֹקֵב הֶחָבִית וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:


The following rules apply when wolves come and attack herds being watched by a shepherd and seize some of them. If there is only one wolf, it is not considered to be a loss due to factors beyond his control. This applies even when there is an outbreak of wolves. If there are two wolves, it is considered to be a loss beyond his control. Two dogs are not considered to be a loss beyond his control, even if they come from two directions. If there are more than two, it is considered to be a loss beyond his control.

Armed thieves are considered to be a loss beyond his control. This applies even if the shepherd was armed and only one armed thief opposed him; it is considered to be a loss beyond his control. For a shepherd will not risk his life as a thief will.

A lion, a bear, a leopard, a cheetah or a snake are considered to be losses beyond his control.

When does this apply? When they come on their own initiative. If, however, the shepherd brings his herd to a place of wild beasts or thieves, losses incurred because of them are not considered to be losses beyond his control, and the shepherd is liable to make restitution.


רוֹעֶה שֶׁבָּאוּ זְאֵבִים וְטָרְפוּ מִמֶּנּוּ אִם הָיָה זְאֵב אֶחָד אֵין זֶה אֹנֶס אֲפִלּוּ בִּשְׁעַת מִשְׁלַחַת זְאֵבִים. וְאִם הָיוּ שְׁנֵי זְאֵבִים הֲרֵי זֶה אֹנֶס. שְׁנֵי כְּלָבִים אֵינָן אֹנֶס אֲפִלּוּ בָּאוּ מִשְּׁתֵי רוּחוֹת. הָיוּ יֶתֶר עַל שְׁנַיִם הֲרֵי זֶה אֹנֶס. לִסְטִים מְזֻיָּן הֲרֵי הוּא אֹנֶס וַאֲפִלּוּ הָיָה הָרוֹעֶה מְזֻיָּן וּבָא לוֹ לִסְטִים אֶחָד מְזֻיָּן הֲרֵי זֶה אֹנֶס שֶׁאֵין הָרוֹעֶה מוֹסֵר נַפְשׁוֹ כְּלִסְטִים. הָאֲרִי וְהַדֹּב וְהַנָּמֵר וְהַבַּרְדְּלָס וְהַנָּחָשׁ הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ אֳנָסִין. אֵימָתַי בִּזְמַן שֶׁבָּאוּ מֵאֲלֵיהֶן. אֲבָל אִם הוֹלִיכָם לִמְקוֹם גְּדוּדֵי חַיּוֹת וְלִיסְטִים אֵין אֵלּוּ אֳנָסִין וְחַיָּב לְשַׁלֵּם:


When a shepherd encounters a thief and begins to boast to him, trying to show him that he is not concerned with him, saying: "We are in this and this place. We have these and these many shepherds, and these and these types of weapons," and the thief comes and overcomes him and seizes the animals, the shepherd is liable. For there is no difference between bringing the animal(s) to a place of beasts and thieves, or boasting and thus bringing the thieves to the place of the animal(s).


רוֹעֶה שֶׁמָּצָא גַּנָּב וְהִתְחִיל לְהִתְגָּרוֹת בּוֹ וּלְהַרְאוֹתוֹ שֶׁאֵינוֹ חוֹשֵׁשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ וְאָמַר לוֹ הֲרֵי אָנוּ בְּמָקוֹם פְּלוֹנִי וְכָךְ וְכָךְ רוֹעִים אֲנַחְנוּ וְכָךְ וְכָךְ כְּלֵי מִלְחָמָה יֵשׁ לָנוּ וּבָא אוֹתוֹ הַלִּסְטִים וְנִצְּחוֹ וְלָקַח מֵהֶן הֲרֵי הָרוֹעֶה חַיָּב שֶׁאֶחָד הַמּוֹלִיךְ אֶת הַבְּהֵמָה לִמְקוֹם גְּדוּדֵי חַיּוֹת וְלִסְטִים אוֹ מֵבִיא אֶת הַלִּסְטִים בְּהִתְגָּרוּתוֹ לִמְקוֹם הַבְּהֵמָה:

Mishneh Torah (Moznaim)

Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.


If a shepherd had the opportunity of saving an animal that was preyed upon or taken captive by calling to other shepherds or bringing staves, and he did not call to other shepherds or bring staves to save the animal, he is liable. This applies to both an unpaid watchman and a paid watchman. The difference is that an unpaid watchman should call to other watchman and bring staves without charge. If he cannot find any available for free, he is not liable. A paid watchman, by contrast, is obligated to hire other shepherds and staves until the value of the animal(s) in order to save them. Afterwards, he should collect their hire from the owner. If he does not do so and had the opportunity to hire others and did not avail himself of it, he is considered to be negligent and is liable to make restitution.


רוֹעֶה שֶׁהָיָה לוֹ לְהַצִּיל הַטְּרֵפָה אוֹ הַשְּׁבוּיָה בְּרוֹעִים אֲחֵרִים וּבְמַקְלוֹת וְלֹא קָרָא רוֹעִים אֲחֵרִים וְלֹא הֵבִיא מַקְלוֹת לְהַצִּיל הֲרֵי זֶה חַיָּב אֶחָד שׁוֹמֵר חִנָּם וְאֶחָד שׁוֹמֵר שָׂכָר אֶלָּא שֶׁשּׁוֹמֵר חִנָּם קוֹרֵא רוֹעִים וּמֵבִיא מַקְלוֹת בְּחִנָּם וְאִם לֹא מָצָא פָּטוּר אֲבָל שׁוֹמֵר שָׂכָר חַיָּב לִשְׂכֹּר הָרוֹעִים וְהַמַּקְלוֹת עַד כְּדֵי דְּמֵי הַבְּהֵמָה כְּדֵי לְהַצִּיל וְחוֹזֵר וְלוֹקֵחַ שְׂכָרָן מִבַּעַל הַבַּיִת. וְאִם לֹא עָשָׂה כֵן וְהָיָה לוֹ לִשְׂכֹּר וְלֹא שָׂכַר הֲרֵי זֶה פּוֹשֵׁעַ וְחַיָּב:


When a shepherd claims that he hired other shepherds to save a herd from danger, he is required to take an oath. He may then collect the amount that he claims. The rationale is that he cannot claim more than the value of the herd and he could have claimed that the herd was preyed upon. He is required to take an oath while holding a sacred object, as required of all those who take oaths and expropriate property.


רוֹעֶה שֶׁטָּעַן שֶׁהִצַּלְתִּי עַל יְדֵי רוֹעִים בְּשָׂכָר נִשְׁבָּע וְנוֹטֵל מַה שֶּׁטָּעַן שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִטְעֹן אֶלָּא עַד כְּדֵי דְּמֵיהֶן וְיָכוֹל הָיָה לוֹמַר נִטְרְפָה וְיִשָּׁבַע בִּנְקִיטַת חֵפֶץ כְּדִין כָּל הַנִּשְׁבָּעִין וְנוֹטְלִין:


The following laws apply when a shepherd abandoned his herd and came to the city - whether at the time the shepherds usually come to the city or at a time when this is not their practice - and wolves came and preyed upon the herd, or lions came and attacked them. We do not postulate that if he had been there, he definitely could have saved the animals. Instead, we assess the situation. If he could have saved them - even by hiring other shepherds and staves - he is liable. If not, he is not liable. If it is impossible to make such an assessment, he is liable.


רוֹעֶה שֶׁהִנִּיחַ עֶדְרוֹ וּבָא לָעִיר בֵּין בְּעֵת שֶׁדֶּרֶךְ הָרוֹעִים לְהִכָּנֵס וּבֵין בְּעֵת שֶׁאֵין דֶּרֶךְ הָרוֹעִים לְהִכָּנֵס וּבָאוּ זְאֵבִים וּטְרָפוֹ אֲרִי וְדָרַס אֵין אוֹמְרִים אִלּוּ הָיָה שָׁם הָיָה מַצִּיל אֶלָּא אוֹמְדִין אוֹתוֹ אִם יָכוֹל לְהַצִּיל עַל יְדֵי רוֹעִים וּמַקְלוֹת חַיָּב וְאִם לָאו פָּטוּר וְאִם אֵין הַדָּבָר יָדוּעַ חַיָּב לְשַׁלֵּם:


If an animal dies in an ordinary manner, this is considered to be a loss beyond the shepherd's control, and he is not liable. If he oppressed it and it died, it is not considered a loss beyond his control. If it overcame the shepherd and ascended to a high cliff, and it overcame him and fell, it is considered to be a loss beyond his control. If he led it up a steep cliff or it ascended on its own accord, but he could have prevented it from doing so and failed to do so, even though it overcame him and fell and died or was injured, he is liable. For whenever there is negligence at the outset, but ultimately the actual loss happens because of factors beyond the watchman's control, he is liable.

Similarly, when a shepherd leads animals across a bridge, and one pushes another and it falls into the current of the river, the shepherd is liable. The rationale is that he should have brought them over one by one. Indeed, the reason a shepherd receives a wage is to watch the animals in an effective manner. Since he was negligent at the outset, by causing them to cross together, even though when the animal fell, the loss was beyond his control, he is liable.


מֵתָה הַבְּהֵמָה כְּדַרְכָּהּ הֲרֵי זֶה אֹנֶס וְהָרוֹעֶה פָּטוּר. סִגְפָהּ וּמֵתָה אֵינוֹ אֹנֶס. תְּקָפַתּוּ וְעָלְתָה לְרָאשֵׁי צוּקִין וּתְקָפַתּוּ וְנָפְלָה הֲרֵי זֶה אֹנֶס. הֶעֱלָהּ לְרָאשֵׁי צוּקִין אוֹ שֶׁעָלְתָה מֵאֵלֶיהָ וְהוּא יָכוֹל לְמָנְעָהּ וְלֹא מְנָעָהּ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁתְּקָפַתּוּ וְנָפְלָה וּמֵתָה אוֹ נִשְׁבְּרָה חַיָּב שֶׁכָּל שֶׁתְּחִלָּתוֹ בִּפְשִׁיעָה וְסוֹפוֹ בְּאֹנֶס חַיָּב. וְכֵן רוֹעֶה שֶׁהֶעֱבִיר הַבְּהֵמוֹת עַל הַגֶּשֶׁר וְדָחֲפָה אַחַת מֵהֶן לַחֲבֵרְתָהּ וְנָפְלָה לְשִׁבּלֶת הַנָּהָר הֲרֵי זֶה חַיָּב שֶׁהָיָה לוֹ לְהַעֲבִירָן אַחַת אַחַת שֶׁאֵין הַשּׁוֹמֵר נוֹטֵל שָׂכָר אֶלָּא לִשְׁמֹר שְׁמִירָה מְעֵלָּה וְהוֹאִיל וּפָשַׁע בַּתְּחִלָּה וְהֶעֱבִירָן כְּאֶחָד אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁנֶּאֱנַס בַּסּוֹף בְּעֵת הַנְּפִילָה הֲרֵי הוּא חַיָּב:


If the shepherd was negligent and the animal went out to a swamp and died in an ordinary manner, he is not liable. For the animal's going there did not cause it to be lost due to forces beyond the shepherd's control. Since it died in an ordinary manner, what difference is it whether it died in the watchman's house or in the swamp?

If, by contrast, a thief stole it from the swamp, and it died in an ordinary manner in the thief's house, the watchman is liable, even if he is an unpaid watchman. For even if it had not died, it would have been lost to its owner in the possession of the thief, and its going out to the swamp allowed it to be stolen. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.


פָּשַׁע בָּהּ וְיָצְאָה לַאֲגַם וּמֵתָה שָׁם כְּדַרְכָּהּ פָּטוּר שֶׁאֵין יְצִיאָתָהּ גָּרְמָה לָהּ שֶׁתָּבוֹא לִידֵי אֹנֶס זֶה הוֹאִיל וּכְדַרְכָּהּ מֵתָה מַה לִּי בְּבֵית שׁוֹמֵר מַה לִּי בָּאֲגַם. אֲבָל אִם גְּנָבָהּ גַּנָּב מֵהָאֲגַם וּמֵתָה כְּדַרְכָּהּ בְּבֵית הַגַּנָּב הֲרֵי הַשּׁוֹמֵר חַיָּב אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא שׁוֹמֵר חִנָּם שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ לֹא מֵתָה הֲרֵי הִיא אֲבֵדָה בְּיַד הַגַּנָּב וִיצִיאָתָהּ גָּרְמָה לָהּ לְהִגָּנֵב. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה: