Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Surprise Mishnah

Unexpectedly, I came across a Mishnah with some relevance to our topic at hand yesterday.  Here it is (Baba Kama, chapter 8, mishnah 6):

התוקע לחברו, נותן לו סלע; רבי יהודה אומר משום רבי יוסי הגלילי, מנה.  סטרו, נותן לו מאתיים זוז.  לאחר ידו, נותן לו ארבע מאות זוז.  צרם באוזנו, תלש בשערו, רקק והגיע בו הרוק, העביר טליתו ממנו, ופרע ראשה של אישה--נותן ארבע מאות זוז.  הכול לפי כבודו.  אמר רבי עקיבה, אפילו עניים שבישראל--רואין אותן כאילו הן בני חורין שירדו מנכסיהן, שהן בני אברהם יצחק ויעקוב.  מעשה באחד שפרע ראשה של אישה, ובאת לפני רבי עקיבה, וחייבו ליתן לה ארבע מאות זוז.  אמר לו, רבי, תן לי זמן, ונתן לו.  שימרה עומדת על פתח חצרה, ושיבר את הפך לפניה, ובו איסר שמן; וגלתה את ראשה, והייתה מטפחת ומנחת על ראשה.  והעמיד לה עדים, ובא לפני רבי עקיבה; אמר לו, רבי, לזו אני נותן ארבע מאות זוז.  אמר לו, לא אמרת כלום:  שהחובל בעצמו--אף על פי שאינו רשאי, פטור; ואחרים שחבלו בו, חייבין.  הקוצץ את נטיעותיו--אף על פי שאינו רשאי, פטור; ואחרים שקצצו את נטיעותיו, חייבין.

It's not the most clear of mishnayot, and it's late at night, so for now, I'll stick to translating the relevant pieces...  The context is laws pertaining to personal injury.  Until this point, we have considered payments/fines for hitting another person in various ways, and considered ways in which aspects of a person's status may or may not affect those payments.  

"If he punched his nose, pulled his hair, spit and the spit hit him, pulled his garment off of him, or bared a woman's head in the marketplace- he must give 400 zuz.  Everything is according to a person's honor.  Rabbi Akiva said: even the poorest person in Israel, we should see him as if he were a free person who had lost his possessions.  A story about someone who bared a woman's head in the marketplace, and came before Rabbi Akiva, and he [Rabbi Akiva] obligated him to give her the 400 zuz.  He said to him, "Rabbi, give me time", and he agreed.  He found her standing at the entry to her courtyard, and broke a container before her, and there was an isar [a small amount] of oil in it.  She revealed her head, and soaked up the oil, and put it on her head.  He establishes witnesses, and came before Rabbi Akiva, and said to him, "Rabbi- for this one should I give 400 zuz?"  He said, "You haven't said anything, because one who injures themself, even though it is not permitted, it is not punished, but others who injure them, are liable."  

This mishnah gives us a good sociological picture of how head-covering was viewed in mishnaic era society.  Removing a head covering is like removing a piece of clothing- offensive if someone else does it, and for yourself- prohibited but still sometimes done.  It presents the practice as completely normative, and even as something legally protected.  It does not, on the other hand, have any input on who this woman is or her status, the degree of covering we're talking about, or any of our other on-going questions.  

It also presents head-covering in a different halakhic framework (nezikin- damages/civil law) from what we have seen so far.  

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