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Friday, February 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Mishpatim

One of the laws dealt with in this week's parsha is that of damages incurred when one's animal gores another. The pasuk states (21:35) "v`chi yigof shor ish es shor rei'eihu..." Ibn Ezra explains these words as follows: And if the ox of a man gores the ox of his (this man's) friend. However, he brings an alternative explanation from a Karaite by the name of ben Zuta. He interprets: And if the ox of a man gores his (the ox's) friend - another ox. Ibn Ezra rejects this ridiculous interpretation based on the notes of the pasuk which clearly indicate that it should be read otherwise. Besides, adds the Ibn Ezra sharply, an ox has no friends - except for ben Zuta!

It is not often that the commentary of a rishon on chumash will have one rolling in laughter although it is not unusual for Ibn Ezra to take on a Karaite and his misguided interpretation. However, Ibn Ezra's sharp attack on ben Zuta is not so clear. Daniel Scarowsky, z"l, once pointed out to me that we find in the mishnayos in Bava Kamma perek 5 (bottom of 48b) "Shor shehaya miskaven l'chaveiro...," an ox that had intention to gore "his friend." Perhaps the ox is not the social outcast the Ibn Ezra had perceived him to be.

Daniel explained, however, that there is a difference between the term rei'a, used in our pasuk, and the term chaveir, used in the mishnah. Chaveir comes from the same root as chabura, a group, or chibur, connection. A chaveir is merely one who is a member of the same group, associated by any means of connection. Any two oxen are associates by means of their being of the same species and thus, they are chaveirim. Rei'a, conversely, is a term used to denote a more serious friendship, as we find rei'im ahuvim in reference to the marriage bond. It denotes a friendship in the mind, involving real feelings that only a human being can experience and an ox surely cannot... except, perhaps, with ben Zuta.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Answer vs. Torture
Dikdukian: Give it to me
Dikdukian: Ha'isha viladeha
Dikdukian: Jewish Milk
Dikdukian: The Ox and his Friend

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