Friday, April 18, 2014

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Battery -- final

Your assignment for this week was to look at Exodus 21:20-21, and then 26-27 in the same chapter, so that we can finish off the subject of battery.  Then look at Leviticus 25:42-46.
I said that Mishnah had defined 5 types of damages a batterer had to pay and I only described 4.  The fifth one is loss of value.  That means two things one of which I will discuss later.
As of right now, it means that somebody who suffers an injury out of the group listed in Exodus 21:24-25, might not be able to work as well as before the injury.  That means his value as a bondsman drops.  First he gets poor because he can’t earn as much as before the injury.  Then he has to take out a bond on himself because he can’t support his family – but he can’t get as much money on the bond as he could have before he sustained the injury.  Finally, he can’t work as well as he used to, so there’s a chance that when the bondholder has to release him, the bond won’t be fully paid up. 
So when the judges in a case of battery assess damages, they take into account this drop in value as a bondsman and they add that to the other damages assessed.
The bondholder is liable for battery for all five classes of damages.  The bondsman is allowed to pay off the bond with the money award.  What’s more, even if the award wasn’t enough to pay off the whole bond, the bondholder who puts his bondsman in the hospital doesn’t get to hang onto him when the time on the bond expires.  That’s what it means by “it’s his money.”  The bondholder loses money if he puts the bondsman in the hospital so he can’t work, and if the bond expires without being paid off, the bondholder can’t hold onto it just because the bondsman was in the hospital due to battery.
And the bondholder can be tried for murder if the bondsman dies.
Now look at the conflict in verses 26 and 27 compared with verses 24 and 25:  If you beat your bondsman or bondswoman and put out the eye or tooth, for the eye the person goes out free and for the tooth, you pay compensation.  That seems to be a conflict and we have to find a verse to resolve it.
The resolution is Leviticus 25:42-46.  These verses describe a set of bondsmen for whom the situation is different.  They have to be freed, not just paid damages, if the bondholder puts out an eye; and the bondholder owes damages for other injuries, like striking out a tooth.
You remember from the story of Noach that his youngest son Cham was the father of Canaan, and Gd condemned Canaan to be slaves.  At least, that’s the urban legend.
Jewish law says that these people could take out bonds on themselves that did not have to be cancelled at a given date, but they had to be treated right.  They might be assigned menial labor, and they might be bequeathed to the purchaser’s descendants, but he didn’t have rights of life and death over them.  The money for striking out a tooth absolutely belonged to the Canaanite slave, and he could pay it back toward the bond.  So a Canaanite slave could buy his freedom if the bondholder committed battery in an extreme degree or more than once.
Now we have destroyed the urban legend that the Bible justifies the slavery imposed on Africans kidnapped and brought to the U.S. as labor. 
Next week we’re going to continue with the bonding situation and unload another urban legend about Jewish law.  Read Exodus 21:7-11.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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