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Din & Daf: Getting Someone Else to do Your Dirty Work (Episode 4)

Din & Daf: Conceptual Analysis of Halakha Through Case Study with Dr. Elana Stein Hain

Getting someone else to do your dirty work אין שליח לדבר עבירה

Dr. Elana Stein Hain – dinanddaf@hadran.org.il

Printable source sheet

In halakhah, the excuse, “But she told me to do it!” or “But it was his idea!” does not pass muster. Only the person who committed the wrong gets punished, not the person who suggested the idea or even sent the other person to commit the wrong on their behalf! While it is perfectly sensible to punish the person who actually committed the act, should the person who suggested it, who told that person to do something wrong really be let off scot free?

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  • בבא קמא עח: – עט.

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: גָּנַב, וְנָתַן לְאַחֵר וְטָבַח; גָּנַב, וְנָתַן לְאַחֵר וּמָכַר…מְשַׁלֵּם תַּשְׁלוּמֵי אַרְבָּעָה וַחֲמִשָּׁה.

The Sages taught in a baraita: If one stole an animal and gave it to another and that person slaughtered it, or if one stole an animal and gave it to another and that person sold it…the thief is liable to pay the fourfold or fivefold payment.

 

מַאי קָא מַשְׁמַע לַן? אַשְׁמְעִינַן רֵישָׁא גָּנַב וְנָתַן לְאַחֵר וְטָבַח – דְּיֵשׁ שָׁלִיחַ לִדְבַר עֲבֵירָה. אַף עַל גַּב דִּבְכׇל הַתּוֹרָה כּוּלָּהּ 

אֵין שָׁלִיחַ לִדְבַר עֲבֵירָה, הָכָא יֵשׁ שָׁלִיחַ לִדְבַר עֲבֵירָה.

What is this baraita teaching us? All of the halakhot it states are obvious. The first clause teaches us, through the case of one who stole an animal and gave it to another and that person slaughtered (or sold it), that in this case there is agency for transgression. Even though in the entire Torah there is a principle that there is no agency for transgression, here there is agency for transgression.

 

מַאי טַעְמָא? ״וּטְבָחוֹ״ וּ״מְכָרוֹ״; מָה מְכִירָה – דְּלָא אֶפְשָׁר דְּלָאו עַל יְדֵי אַחֵר, אַף טְבִיחָה עַל יְדֵי אַחֵר – מִחַיַּיב.

What is the reason that this case is an exception to the principle? It is because the verse states: “And slaughters it or sells it” (Exodus 21:37): just as one becomes liable for selling, which by definition is impossible without another party, i.e., the buyer, so too one becomes liable for slaughtering even when it is by means of another party.

  • קידושין מב: 

הַשּׁוֹלֵחַ אֶת הַבְּעֵירָה בְּיַד חֵרֵשׁ שׁוֹטֶה וְקָטָן – פָּטוּר מִדִּינֵי אָדָם, וְחַיָּיב בְּדִינֵי שָׁמַיִם. שִׁילַּח בְּיַד פִּיקֵּחַ – פִּיקֵּחַ חַיָּיב.

(Mishnah Bava Kamma 59b): In the case of one who sends an item that causes a fire in the hands of a deaf-mute, one who is mental incoherent, or a minor, the one who sent it is exempt according to human laws but liable according to the laws of Heaven. If one sent it in the hands of a halakhically competent person, only the halakhically competent person is liable.

 

וְאַמַּאי? נֵימָא: שְׁלוּחוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם כְּמוֹתוֹ! שָׁאנֵי הָתָם דְּאֵין שָׁלִיחַ לִדְבַר עֲבֵירָה. דְּאָמְרִינַן: דִּבְרֵי הָרַב וְדִבְרֵי תַּלְמִיד – דִּבְרֵי מִי שׁוֹמְעִים?

But why is the halakhically competent person liable? A person’s emissary is as oneself! There it is different, as there is no agency for transgression, as we say: When there is a conflict between the words of the Master, i.e., God, and the words of the student, i.e.,a human being, whose words should be listened to? 

 

  1. משנה בבא קמא ז:ו

…נְתָנוֹ לִבְכוֹרוֹת בְּנוֹ אוֹ לְבַעַל חוֹבוֹ, לְשׁוֹמֵר חִנָּם, וּלְשׁוֹאֵל, לְנוֹשֵׂא שָׂכָר, וּלְשׂוֹכֵר, וְהָיָה מוֹשְׁכוֹ, וּמֵת בִּרְשׁוּת הַבְּעָלִים, פָּטוּר. הִגְבִּיהוֹ אוֹ שֶׁהוֹצִיאוֹ מֵרְשׁוּת הַבְּעָלִים, וּמֵת, חַיָּב:

…If the thief gave the animal as payment for the redemption of his firstborn son, or as payment to a creditor, or conveyed it for safeguarding to an unpaid bailee, or lent it to a borrower, or conveyed it for safeguarding to a paid bailee, or leased it to a renter, and he was leading out the animal and it died in the owner’s domain, the thief is exempt from payment. If that individual (i.e., the kohen, creditor, etc), following the thief’s instructions, lifted up the animal or led it out of the owner’s domain, and it subsequently died, the thief is liable for the theft. 

 

  1. תוספות קידושין מב: ד”ה אמאי

…לא שייך למימר דברי הרב ודברי תלמיד דברי מי שומעים כיון שהוא שוגג דהכי נמי משמע בפ’ מרובה (ב”ק דף עט.) דקאמר הרי שגנב טלה מן העדר ואמר לכהן טול טלה זה שהוא שלי או נתנו לכהן לבכורות בנו והראה לו בטלה של חבירו ומסיק דמיד שהוציאו הכהן מרשות בעלים נתחייב הגנב במשיכת הכהן והקשה ר”י התם אמאי חייב הגנב נימא אין שליח לדבר עבירה ותירץ כיון שאין הכהן יודע שהוא בא מגניבה לא שייך למימר דברי מי שומעין…

 …It is not relevant to say: “the words of the master and the words of the student, whose words should one heed?” because the emissary is acting unwittingly. And so it sounds in Bava Kamma 79a, which says: if one stole a lamb from the flock and told the kohen, “Take this lamb which is mine,” or gave it to the kohen to redeem his firstborn son, but showed the kohen someone else’s lamb (to take); and it concludes that immediately when the kohen takes the lamb out of the domain of its owners, the thief is obligated (in compensation) by the pulling of the animal by the kohen. And Rabbeinu Yitzchak challenged there: But why is the thief obligated? We should say that there is no agent for a sin? And he answered that because the kohen does not know that the animal is stolen, it is not relevant to say “whose words should one heed?”

 

  1. תוספות ב”ק נו. ד”ה אלא

ודוקא שוכר אבל אמר פטור מדיני שמים דסבור שלא ישמעו לו…דבפירקין תנן (דף נט:) השולח את הבערה ביד חש”ו פטור מדיני אדם וחייב בדיני שמים שלח ביד פקח הפקח חייב משמע דשולח פטור אף מדיני שמים

And only in the case where someone hired (false witnesses is that person obligated by the laws of Heaven to compensate), but one who simply told people to bear false witness is exempt even from the laws of Heaven because the person can argue that s/he did not think people would listen to her/him…For in our chapter we learn in a mishnah (BK 59b) “One who send forth fire with a deaf-mute, someone mentally incoherent or a minor is exempt from human law but obligated by Divine law. If one sent it with a mentally cogent adult, that adult is obligated,” suggesting that the one who did the sending is exempt even by Divine law!

 

  1. ש”ך (שפתי כהן R. Shabtai HaKohen, 17th c. Europe) חושן משפט לב ס”ק ג

…נ”ל עיקר דלעולם חייב בדיני שמים היכא דגורם היזק לחבירו אפי’ לא שכרן והא דקתני השולח את הבערה ביד פקח הפקח חייב ולא קתני דהשולח חייב בדיני שמים היינו כיון דפקח משלם תו לא שייך דיני שמים על המשלח… 

 

…I think that the sender is always liable by Divine law where the sender causes damage/harm to their fellow, even if the sender did not hire them (=the witnesses). And that which the mishnah states, “One who sends fire in the hand of a mentally cogent adult, that adult is liable,” but it did not state that the sender is liable by Divine law, this is only because the cogent adult who did this will pay, and therefore there is no further obligation by Divine law upon the sender. 

 

Dr. Elana Stein Hain is the Rosh Beit Midrash and a senior research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Passionate about bringing Torah into conversation with contemporary life, she teaches Talmud from the Balcony, an occasional learning seminar exposing the big ideas, questions, and issues motivating Talmudic discussions; she authored Circumventing the Law: Rabbinic Perspectives on Legal Loopholes and Integrity (pre-order discount code: PENN-ESHAIN30) which uses halakhic loopholes as a lens for understanding rabbinic views on law and ethics; and she co-hosts For Heaven’s Sake, a bi-weekly podcast with Donniel Hartman and Yossi Klein Halevi, exploring contemporary issues related to Israel and the Jewish world. In mid-January, Elana will be starting a new podcast called TEXTing, where she and guest scholars study Torah texts that engage issues of the moment for the Jewish world. She lives in Manhattan with her beloved family.

 


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Dr. Elana Stein Hain

Dr. Elana Stein Hain is the Rosh Beit Midrash and a senior research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Passionate about bringing Torah into conversation with contemporary life, she teaches Talmud from the Balcony, an occasional learning seminar exposing the big ideas, questions, and issues motivating talmudic discussions; she authored Circumventing the Law: Rabbinic Perspectives on Legal Loopholes and Integrity (pre-order discount code: PENN-ESHAIN30) which uses halakhic loopholes as a lens for understanding rabbinic views on law and ethics; and she co-hosts For Heaven’s Sake, a bi-weekly podcast with Donniel Hartman and Yossi Klein Halevi, exploring contemporary issues related to Israel and the Jewish world. In mid-January, Elana will be starting a new podcast called TEXTing, where she and guest scholars study Torah texts that engage issues of the moment for the Jewish world. She lives in Manhattan with her beloved family.
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