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Friday, February 20

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 says (21:35) "V`chi yigof shor ish es shor rei'eihu..." The 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 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 but this one did it to me. 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.' It seems the ox is not the social outcast the Ibn Ezra had perceived him to be. But Daniel explained that the answer must be that there is a difference between the term "rei'ah," used in our pasuk, and the term "chaveir," used in the Mishna. Chaveir comes from the same root as "chabura," a group. A chaveir is merely one who is a member of the same group. Any two oxen are part of the "ox" group and thus, they are chaveirim. A rei'ah, a term used to denote a more serious friendship, a friendship in the mind, involving real feelings that only a human being can experience and an ox surely cannot... except, of course, with ben Zuta.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Dunno about this one.

Ben Zuta probably erred seriously, and Qaraite exegetes have produced their share of nonsense.
But then maybe Ibn-`Ezra misquoted him in a bid to discredit him as a Qaraite Jew? I mean, some Rabbinic commentators were not above misrepresenting their opponents' exegeses.

3/24/2009 10:38 AM  

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