Pertaining to G-d’s Civil Laws – Part 2, Neglect Crimes
By William J Jackson
A Crime of Neglect:
The definition of neglect in Exodus 21 – 22 is one that implies “because you chose not to control a hazard it led to a disaster“. These crimes of neglect range from not controlling livestock to not controlling ones temper. The punishment in cases of neglect were not as harsh as the punishment for intentional crimes*. The culprit usually had to pay the worth of the item that was destroyed. The verdict sometimes protected the offender from a back lash from the victim and victims family. Here are the eight crimes of neglect and their punishments:
- Striking a man and killing him without intent, the perpetrator will be allowed to flee to a sanctuary for protection (Exodus21:13, Numbers 35:25)
- Harming a pregnant woman in a fight will result in a fine (Exodus 21:22)
- Injuring somebody in a fight will result in compensation (Exodus 21:18-19)
- If violent ox is not contained and kills another the owner will compensate and receive the dead ox (Exodus 21:36)
- If livestock is given to somebody for safekeeping and it is stolen the one guarding the property will pay the owner (Exodus22:11)
- If you borrow an animal and it becomes injured or dies you will pay for it, unless the owner is with you. Exodus 22:13
- If an animal feeds somebody else’s field the owner will repay with the best of his field (Exodus 22:4)
- In he case of an out of control fire the one who ignites it will pay for damages (Exodus 22:5)
a. It’s in the motives:
Crimes of neglect and *intentional crimes are somewhat the same; both cause harm and are inspired by wrongful behavior. But it is the action in each that separates them. One is inspired by aggressive sometimes plotting behavior (intentional) the other is inspired by uncaring callousness (neglect). We see obvious examples of neglect in the above rulings; i.e. leaving a hole uncovered or losing control of a controlled fire. We can also draw on relevant examples in our “today” world such as keeping a dog on it’s leash and not texting while driving.
b. The compensation for these crimes was fair:
The compensation for victims in crimes of neglect was not extreme, usually enough to cover the damages. Understandably excessive recompense could have motivate the sufferer to become greedy. We have all seen this in cases such as suing McDonald’s for $2.86 million over a hot cup of coffee (1).
c. Neglect gets in the way of our righteousness:
HaShem doesn’t want us living unconnected in our own little cocoons. We are to be responsible to our brothers and sisters, and in this we will discover community. We see this in our Patriarchs. Father Abraham fought for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:22-33) as did Moses fight for Israel (Exodus 32:11-14, Numbers 14:13-20, Deuteronomy 9:25-29). The Torah declares Abraham (Genesis 15:6) as righteous and Moses along with the Israelites as being called to righteousness (Deuteronomy 18:13). The same holds true today, as they were called to be righteous, we are called to be righteous (Deuteronomy 6:25, Ezekiel 1820-24, Proverbs 12:28, 21:3)
d. Don’t neglect a mitzvah:
On the flip side of not being neglectful to prevent disaster we should not be neglectful in our mitzvot. This especially holds true if there is no personal benefit. As stated in Exodus 23:4-5 “If you come upon your enemy’s bull or his stray donkey, you shall surely return it to him. If you see your enemy’s donkey lying under its burden would you refrain from helping him? You shall surely help along with him” this also again is stated in Deuteronomy 22:4.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke (2)
To be continued;
Unintentional Crimes (Part 3), Friday 20 February 2015
*Where do I stand? Pertaining to G-d’s Civil Laws – Part 1, Intentional Crimes (Posted 16 February 2015, Monday)