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Thought for the Day: Klal u'Prat u'Klal, Oh My!

I am always tickled when someone tells me they don't read all my emails.  I usually response, "Neither do I." My reason for not reading them is simple: I'm lazy.  I am not sure why other people read them at all, to be honest, so figuring out why they don't read them all would seem to be an exercise in frustration.  Being neither a stranger to exercise nor frustration, I am undaunted.  My guess is that it is because I write on a lot of different topics, basically anything that strikes my fancy that day; what strikes my fancy doesn't strike yours.  Today is probably worse than usual.

My morning chavrusa and I were having a lot of trouble with the gemara in Bava Kama regarding which stolen goods are included in the requirement to pay double (keifel) if caught and sentenced by a beis din (as opposed to when one admits his crime).  The basic answer is that rule applies to moveable objects that have an instrinsic monetary value; ie, not land (ain't moveble), slaves (halacha nearly always applies to them in the same way it applies to land), and contracts (no intrinsic value; their value is that they authorize you to collect funds).  How do we know that?  Ah.... now the fun begins.

In broad strokes, the verse that tells us that keifel is owed says: "if the stolen property -- ox, sheep, donkey -- be found alive, the thief pays double".  (Those should really be "paraphrase marks" and not "quotation marks", but English doesn't have those.)  So here we have:

  1. stolen propery -- klal (a general catagory)
  2. ox, sheep, donkey -- prat (a list of specific items)
  3. be found alive -- klal (another general category)
A klal u'prat u'klal is used so say that it applies to anything that is like the list of details.  Why not just ox?  Then I would have said anything that can be brought on the mizbei'ach, which would add what?  Sheep; but sheep is already there, so must mean anything whose b'chor has k'dusha, which would add what?  Donkey; but donkey is already there, must mean anything that is alive.  However, it already says alive, so our conclusion is movable property that has an intrinsic value.

In case you noticed that "alive" was used both as a klal and a prat... well there are two daf and two very long  Tosafos that explains how that works.  Knock yourself out... that's how we spent our last couple of weeks.


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