Am I right in thinking that, if a tam ox injures someone, they receive some damages (mBava Kamma 4:1 and bBava Kamma 33a), whereas if the tam ox kills someone, they/ their heirs receive no damages whatsoever (Exodus 21:28)?

If that is correct, has this odd situation been addressed anywhere?

If I'm incorrect, please can someone point me to the source that will put me right?


  • If I remember right, the Gemara says somewhere that a man has a Mazal and can be protected from Tam
    – kouty
    Apr 30, 2020 at 2:13

1 Answer 1


Bava Kamma 33a says an ox that injured a human pays half its value in damage:

תָּם בְּאָדָם מְשַׁלֵּם בַּמּוֹתָר חֲצִי נֶזֶק
A tam (innocent ox the first 3 times) Ox that damages a human pays the full damage from its body covered by up till half its value.

Rabbi Yossi Hagellili says same would apply when an ox kills a human, one pays half the value of the ox towards kofer (atonement) money Bava Kama 15a

רבי יוסי הגלילי היא דאמר תם משלם חצי כופר
Rabbi Yossi Hagellili says an innocent animal that kills a human pays half kofer

Bava Kamma 41b describes how its possible to pay kofer and that Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva both exempt one from paying half kofer with a shor tam:

ת"ר ובעל השור נקי רבי אליעזר אומר נקי מחצי כופר
אמר לו ר' עקיבא והלא הוא עצמו אין משתלם אלא מגופו הביאהו לבית דין וישלם לך...
אמר לו רבי אליעזר עקיבא כך אני בעיניך שדיני בזה שחייב מיתה אין דיני אלא במתכוון להרוג את הבהמה והרג את האדם "The owner of the tam ox goes free (when it kills a human)" Rabbi Eliezer said he is free from paying half kofer(atonement money)"
Rabbi Akiva asked him: surely he can only pay from the tam ox's body, bring it to Beth din and pay (i.e its worth nothing as it will get stoned so there is no need to say it is exempt from paying) Rabbi Eliezer retorted i am referring to an ox that killed a human by mistake in front of witnesses e.g it intended to kill an animal and then killed a Human (so the ox could be worth something but we still absolve the owner from paying half Kofer).

In short a Tam ox only ever pays from its body, so if it injures a human, one claims only from its body (up to half its value). But if it kills a human on purpose, it is anyway forbidden for everyone to benefit from (including victim) as it is stoned (killed, and even if it is slaughtered its still forbidden ibid 41a). Rabbi Yossi Hagellili says one does pay half Kofer if it kills by mistake (and is not stoned), but Rabbi Eliezer says even then one is exempt because the owner is "naki"- clean (and Rabbi Akiva also exempts from paying half kofer as the animal has to kill on purpose and is forbidden to benefit from ibid 43a Tosfos omar raba)

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