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In Sanhedrin (77b) the gemara discusses a case of "Wall Ball" throwing a ball at a wall, the ball bouces back and if the other player catches the ball, he tries to peg the original thrower (Rashi). The case the gemara brings down is one where the original thrower threw the ball and it ended up killing the second player. (Note although it may be able to implied, the gemara doesn't out right say the ball bounced off the wall and killed the second player). The gemara goes on to say, within 4 amot your פטור past 4 and your חייב (Rashi says 4 amot from the wall, note: the gemara doesn't specify what your חייב and פטור)

I'm curious if anyone can elaborate on what exactly wall ball was (what kinda ball..etc) anything that could help clear up this case. Although the gemara mentions later on that the reason 4 amot is significant is because people try to get the ball past 4 amot, in a case where one is trying to kill his opponent, he will purposely aim for him off the wall and so why then is 4 amot significant? He should be חייב regardless

  • Not the only game mentioned in the Gemara. In Kiddushin (21a) it talks about "Iskumadri," which sounds like backgammon. Some talmidim apparently played it during shiur when they got bored. – DonielF Jun 6 '16 at 19:05
  • Also Rashi Mentions chess in kesuvos 61 – sam Jun 6 '16 at 23:40
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This question is very interesting, this Gemara can be read in diverse ways.

  1. First the wall ball: See Wikipedia this link and for pictures of the ball see the topic in French language.
  2. The Gemara itself is not very easy to read, Rashi itself provide two pshatim. Rashi choosen in its first explanation, to read the Gemara as following, there was discussed in term of Galut, i.e. the punishment for a Shogeg killer. Rashi explain, following Gemara Maccot 7b that for exile punishment, case where he tried to throwing the ball at 2 cubits and he throws at 4 cubits will not be affected by this rule. The act need to be succesfull but without intent to kill.

So, the Gemara said: If he kills at a distance of less than 4 cubits from the wall --> no Galut, more than 4 cubits --> Galut. Why? because a player want to throw the ball strongly in way to launch it as far as possible. So, obviously he wanted to launch it more than 4 cubits after the wall.

A second pshat in Rashi talk about an intentional killer. and death penalty after witnesses cautioned it. The Girsa for this pshat is Lo Tsricha bestam, i.e. The umdena is this that he want to reach with the ball an distance of 4 cubits. So we look at the man killed near to the wall as an accidentally killed. Second explanation: the caution was not to launch 4 cubits after the wall because the killing risk. and he killed a man that was near the wall.

According to the first explanation, the 4 cubits are significants, but not toward the intent of killing.

Your question is relevant for the second explanation and is very similar (or identical) to the first Kashia of Tosfot. The explanation I provided above comes from Yad Rama (see right top) and Rabbi David Bonfils (2nd paragraph on left column)

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