While most laws stem from the Sages' logic presented in the Gemmorah, there is a subset of Halochos called Hukim (decrees) that are to be taken without understanding their reasoning.

Are there Hukim in monetary laws, between a Jew and his fellow?

  • A Gazlan not paying a fine – Double AA Jun 27 '19 at 15:06
  • All kinds of קנס – Heshy Jun 27 '19 at 15:36
  • Inheritance laws are called חקת משפט. Going back a few centuries, of course daughters don't inherit if there's a son. Now, it's hard to understand why they don't. Either way, it's the גזרת מלך and we follow it whether we understand it or not. – Heshy Jun 27 '19 at 15:51
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    Every mishpat has an aspect of chok. For example, why does someone who steals a cow pay 5 times the amount. And a sheep 4 times. There are reasons why the sheep is less, but no reason why specifically 5 and 4 times, as opposed to another amount. – Menachem Jun 27 '19 at 18:21
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    I think that "hukim" or "laws that defy common logic" are two very different things, especially when referring to monetary law – הנער הזה Jun 28 '19 at 3:38

Compiling some answers from the comments to the OP (feel free to add more):

  • If you ignite someone else’s property, you’re exempt from paying for anything which was hidden and damaged by the fire (BK 61b)
  • You’re only liable for animals damaged in your pit, not humans or vessels (BK 52a)
  • If someone entrusted an object to you, and he was working for you at the time of the entrusting, you’re exempt from even gross negligence (BM 94a, 95a, Tosfos ad. loc. DH Itmar)

One of the concepts of torts in Jewish law is גרמא בניזקין, which refers to an action that indirectly causes damage.

According to Jewish law, גרמא בנזקין פטור (Bava Kamma 60a), the tortious person is not liable for such damages, and the Beis Din will not charge him for them.

Nevertheless, the Talmud (Bava Basra 22b) teaches that גרמא בניזקין אסור, a person is prohibited from causing such types of damage, and while Beis Din doesn't obligate for such damages, the Heavenly court will punish the person, פטור מדיני אדם וחייב בדיני שמים.

Bava Kamma 55b

תניא, אמר ר' יהושע, ארבעה דברים העושה אותן פטור מדיני אדם וחייב בדיני שמים, ואלו הן: הפורץ גדר בפני בהמת חבירו, והכופף קמתו של חבירו בפני הדליקה, והשוכר עדי שקר להעיד, והיודע עדות לחבירו ואינו מעיד לו

It follows that it's incumbent upon the person to oblige the laws of heaven, and to pay the damage, and until he does so, the sin will not be forgiven.

This is seemingly a paradox. If he's guilty in Heaven, then why doesn't Beis Din enforce payment?

For further discussion of this issue, see here: קימ"ל שגרמא פטור האם יש סברה לזה ?

  • A good point. THe Wiki says "Following Roman law, the English system has long been based on a closed system[clarification needed] of nominate torts, such as trespass, battery and conversion. Does it mean that גרמא בנזיקים פטור was once the standard of the legal system? – Al Berko Jun 27 '19 at 22:04
  • I don't think this answers the question. While there might be something 'paradoxical' in prohibiting an action for which one would not be liable for damage caused, this surely does not 'defy common logic'. It's wrong to call people disparaging names, or curse at them, or do lots of mean things that are still not going to be judicable in a court of law, and this is true in every legal system. – הנער הזה Jun 28 '19 at 13:29
  • @הנערהזה You mischaracterized the nature of the paradox. The same Hashem that will you hold you accountable in Heaven for the action, disallowed BD to hold you accountable for it, even though BD's job is to hold people accountable for torts. - The key word in the OP is "common" logic. Do you have a logical explanation for this halacha? If no, then it meets the average Joe test. – IsraelReader Jun 28 '19 at 14:39
  • I see; you're right that I misunderstood the "paradox" which is based on an assumption that it's the court's job to "hold people accountable for torts." It's too late to undo my downvote but I still think that this isn't much of a paradox. Firstly, I don't assume that the court is responsible for enforcing all monetary liabilities, even torts. More importantly (but this is a very long discussion). my understanding is that gerama be-nezikin is not really part of tort law at all, it's just something that should obviously not be done because it's not nice, and God insists that we be nice – הנער הזה Jun 28 '19 at 15:01
  • A similar case is that of kofer, wherein a person fails to prevent his dangerous animal from killing someone. Even though the owner must take care that this does not happen, whether or not he has to pay the victim's inheritors is subject to dispute (Bava Kamma 40a) – הנער הזה Jun 28 '19 at 15:02

Bava Kama 45b: R. Yehuda is of the opinion that a שור מועד, an ox that is identified as being likely to gore someone/something, needs less guarding than a שור תם, a regular ox.


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