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Thought for the Day: Learning from One Scenario to Another

So... we had a question about whether a vessel is considered broken from the time it is launched toward certain doom or only after impact.  Case in point was Mrs. O'Learystein's cow kicking Yehuda's crystal ice bucket from the public thoroughfare into Yehuda's living room and smashing against the wall.  The gemara wants to learn what to do from the case of  Reuvein knocking his vase off the roof and Shimon smashing it with a bat before it hits the ground.  Since we know the halacha in the latter case (Shimon is patur), the gemara asserts that the underlying reason must be that the vessel was considered broken from the time it was knocked over.  The gemara then applies that reason to the the case of the cow kicking the bucket and concludes that Mrs O'Learystein does not need to reimburse Yehuda because the damage halachically occured int the public thoroughfare.

Proofs like these are tricky.  It is true that the proposed reason explains the halacha, but there could be other reasons that explain the halacha equally well.  In fact, a much easier explanation is that when Reuvein knocked his vase off the roof and realized how it was going to end, that he simply relinquished ownership and that's why Shimon is patur.  On the other hand, if you say he hadn't given up hope because maybe it wouldn't break or the pieces would be big enough to repair... then how could Shimon be patur; ie, how can it be considered broken already when it might not break at all?  That is, we can only compare this to our case if it is certain to break, but then Reuvein certainly relinquishes ownership so it it not comparable to our case, but then it must not be certain to break, but then Reuvein does not relinquish ownership, so it is not comparable to our case, but the gemara says that it is comparable to our case, so it must be destined for certain breakitude, but then... round and round she goes!

R' Shimon Shkop breaks the circuit (bu not the vase) by distinguishing between when we assert that someone relinquishes ownership and when someone becomes obligated in damages.  To be concrete (like our sidewalk), assume that there is a 10% chance that the vase will not break on impact (so maybe our sidewalk isn't concrete, but AstroTurf).  From Reuevein's perspective, since there is a 10% chance of survival he is not giving up hope and so retains ownership.  On the other hand, from Shimon's perspective there is 90% chance it will break; Shimon can therefore not be held responsible for breaking the vase... it was already considered broken.

In other words: we have used "hamotzi mei'chaveiro alav ha'raya" on both sides.  More to come...


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