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26 Shevat 5764 - February 18, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Why People Should Study Bovo Kammo

by Rabbi Nosson Zeev Grossman

Part I

Eilu Hamishpotim asher tosim lifneihem -- the laws of torts come right after the Ten Commandments. This two-part article explains why this is so.


The increased violence, crime and hooliganism in Israeli society has been officially recognized numerous times. The results of a multinational research study in which more than thirty countries took part, graded the State of Israel as the world's eighth country in its percentage of juvenile delinquency. The local survey conducted among young Israelis shows that a significant amount of students in the state schools report that their fellow classmates carry "cold weapons" -- daggers, pocketknives, and clubs, either to assault other students or for "self-defense."

This revelation is one of a long list of hair-raising news broadcasted frequently on the Israeli media. The constant accounts of murders, theft, violence, degenerate behavior, physical attacks, and intentional damage to other people's possessions has, Rachmono litzlan, become quite routine.

We might think that the Torah-observant have no connection with the maladies of the secular society which has thrown off the yoke of Torah. From the Targum Yonoson ben Uziel in parshas Yisro however, we learn of the responsibility each Jew shares for such incidents and the definite environmental influence these moral breaches have.

The Targum (Shemos 20:13) explains the negative mitzvos in the Ten Commandments: "You shall not murder. You shall not steal," as "My people of Bnei Yisroel should not be murderers . . . and a nation of killers should not be seen in the gatherings of Yisroel. My people Bnei Yisroel should not be thieves . . . and a nation of thieves should not be seen in gatherings of Yisroel."

The issur of "You shall not kill" includes the warning that no murderer should be seen among the Jews. "You shall not steal" warns about thieves being allowed among the Jews.

The presence of thieves and murderers within Am Yisroel pollutes the spiritual atmosphere. Living among sinners, swindlers, and violent people hurts everyone, individually and collectively.

The Targum adds: "So your children will not later learn to be with murderers . . . so your children will not later learn to be with thieves." Any breach in the Torah Nation's moral purity provides fertile ground for the growth of future bad apples.

It is superfluous to indicate how vast the gap between the Torah commandments and the witless wish a secular poet expressed when the State was first founded that, "We will have a real country only when the first Hebrew thief will appear, when we will have the first Hebrew murderer." May Hashem save us from such an absurd and wrong outlook on life.


The accepted minhag in Am Yisroel has always been that children who begin studying gemora start from the dinim of monetary matters-- dinei Nezikin. Talmidim in yeshivos ketanos also devote most of their time analyzing sugyos stemming from parshas Mishpotim: Arba Ovos, Shor Shenogach, and HaKoneis in maseches Bovo Kammo, and Shnayim Ochazim, Eilu Metzi'os, HaMafkid, HaShoel in Bovo Metzia, HaShutfin, Lo Yachpor, and Chezkas HaBatim in Bovo Basra.

It is not in the least an accident that this has become the custom in Klal Yisroel. The reason is not only because the monetary halochos sharpen a person's mind and are like an inexhaustible fountain of knowledge. Maran HaGaon R' Moshe Feinstein zt'l once explained the profound reason for stipulating that these masechtos be studied by young students.

During the first years when Torah institutions were being established in the USA, a group of parents requested not to start studying gemora with Bovo Kammo, Bovo Metzia, or Bovo Basra as was customary, but to prefer Brochos, in which the daily halochos such as tefillah, krias Shema, and birchos hanehenin were taught.

Maran HaRav Moshe Feinstein heard about this request and, when he spoke at a chinuch conference, he strongly opposed the change proposed by the parents. "We must be aware," he said, "that if children start to study with Eilu Metziyos or HaMafkid, that is not by accident. This was the minhag Yisroel for generations and should not be changed."

R' Moshe also told of the reason for this tradition: "First, studying the halochos of Choshen Mishpat will permeate the child's heart with the knowledge that the Torah is not only mitzvos done in the shul. The Torah is relevant to all of man's life and even tells him how he should act in the street with others, and in business, or when he finds some lost object, or when he is asked to watch something, or when he borrows something. The Torah teaches us the way we should act in every situation, not only in matters of tefilloh and the like.

"Another reason is that studying matters of Nezikin and dinei momonos, including studying certain dapim and repeatedly reviewing them, will implant in the child's subconscious that he must be careful with someone else's money. He will come to realize that he should not touch something that is not his, he should not feel that the world is hefkeir or that he can pick up something he finds on the way, and the like. The study of these chapters gives him the deep feeling that all monetary matters need to be prudently and basically analyzed."

HaRav Reuven Feinstein added that sometimes he sees young children who mistakenly damage other people's possessions and excuse themselves by claiming they were be'ones, although this is incorrect, since a "person is always liable for what he does." There are other, similar mistakes. When he checked about these talmidim he found out that they had not started studying gemora with Nezikin but rather with seder Mo'eid or other sedorim. The basic correct concepts of dinei momonos and being careful with others' money were not implanted within them.


This principle was conveyed to us by the founder of the Mussar Movement, Rabbenu Yisroel (Lipkin) of Salant zt'l. He taught us that the best segulah for fighting the yetzer is studying the sugyos dealing with the mitzvos and issurim that a person is most likely to overlook.

"The main method of using the Torah's medicine for the maladies of the yetzer is to study vigorously and with intensity the halochos of the aveiroh itself-- the halocho with all its details . . . One should analyze it well since such a study makes a permanent impression on a person's nefesh, making an aveiroh remote from his nature" (Igeres HaMussar).

"When reaching a pertinent din one should study it in its source and study it as deeply as one is capable. This will probably create a greater kinyan in his nefesh of desiring to observe it than reflecting in yirah . . . This intensive and profound study makes an enormous impression on a person's soul. Observance of this din becomes natural for him. He will keep it with almost no mussar study and will not be tempted to transgress it. Intensive study of the din relevant to one's needs is the foundation for its observance" (Or Yisroel 7).

Maran the Chazon Ish zt'l in Emunah Uvitochon (3:7) writes that toiling over Torah bequeaths "excessive love and mesirus nefesh to fulfill the details of the particular mitzvah over which he is toiling, and the mussar of the Torah will make him realize his being created to fulfill it . . .

"When he devotes nights like days to study the din and the balance of justice in the commentaries and poskim who have charted the way of the Oral Torah (which is as wide as an ocean), the knowledge gained will serve as a shield in his hand against man's inclination to love robbery, and bequeath to him a love of justice and the segulah for tzedek that is more precious that any wealth or money" (ibid., 8).

End of Part I

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