ט״ו באדר ה׳תשע״ה (March 6, 2015)

Ketubot 32a-b: Identifying the More Severe Punishment

As we have learned, based on the Talmudic rule of kim lei be-derabah minei, according to Jewish law a person cannot receive two separate punishments for performing a single act. The halakha allows him to be punished only once, i.e. he will receive the more severe of the two punishments and be freed of the lesser punishment. Thus, if a person performs an act for which he would receive both capital punishments and either malkot or mamon – lashes or a monetary fine – he will not receive the lashes or the fine, as the capital punishment suffices as punishment for this act.

It is clear that when one of the punishments for a specific act is the death penalty, that will be the only punishment that the person receives, but what if he deserves to receive lashes and a monetary fine for his act? Which of those two punishments is considered the more severe one? This question is the point of disagreement between Ulla and Rabbi Yohanan on our daf. According to Ulla, the appropriate punishment is to make the person pay; according to Rabbi Yohanan, assuming he was properly warned of the consequences of his actions, he will receive malkot.

Even according to Rabbi Yohanan, however, there are cases in the Torah where an individual will be required to pay and will not receive malkot. Appropriate punishment in the case of hovel ba-haveiro – personal injury – which includes both malkot and mamon – will be to pay the damages. Only in a case where the damage was less than the value of a peruta (an amount so small that it cannot be returned) will malkot be given.

Personal injury is considered a sin for which you deserve malkot because of the Talmud’s interpretation of the passage in (25:3) that teaches that the court is obligated to punish a criminal with a specific number of lashes, but that more than that will be forbidden. The monetary obligation in such cases will be one or more of the five payments that the court may impose on the person who caused the injury:

  1. Nezek – loss of value for permanent damage incurred
  2. Tza’ar – pain and suffering
  3. Ripuy – medical bills
  4. Shevet – loss of wages during recovery
  5. Boshet – embarrassment incurred by the injury.
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