We have explained in our article
Biblical Formatting located on the world wide web at
that the Biblical Author indicated bullets
by using repeating keywords.
That is, if a modern
author wanted to get a point across using bullets -
a list of similar but contrastive items -
then the Biblical
Author would use repeating keywords.
Today's verse illustrates this principle.
the obligation to pay damages caused by a pit
The repeated underlined phrase
creates a bullet effect. The bullet effect in turn
creates an emphasis on the distinctness of all enumerated items.
Rashi interprets the distinctness as follows
A person is liable for payment on pit damage whether
- When a person opens a pit, or
- When a person digs a pit....
[Then] the pit owner must pay.....
- he opens the pit (that is, removes the cover of a covered pit), or
- he digs the pit.
Advanced Rashi: Rashi asks a crushing question on the above interpretation: But
if removing a cover from a pit causes liability then digging a pit certainly causes liability.
We can reformulate this crushing Rashi comment as follows: The word opening a pit could
equally refer to removing the cover of a covered pit or to digging/creating a pit.
Both removing a cover and digging a pit are examples of opening a pit.
The remedy Rashi gives to this problem derives its driving force from the bullet structure.
Bullets indicate distinction and unspecified emphasis. That is the verse by using a bullet
structure is indicating that there are two ways to incur liability on pit damage. We aren't told
explicitly what those two ways are but we do know that they are described as opening
and digging a pit. As just seen, in the last paragraph, the obvious approach -that opening
and digging refer to removing covers vs. digging - does not work out since opening could equally
refer to removing a cover or digging.
Rashi therefore offers a second attempt at understanding the distinctness of the bullets:
A person is liable for damages from a pit whether the person
Both these methods - (1) removing covers/digging which initiates pit damage and (2) extending the pit by digging
deeper - require monetary liability.
- initiates the pit damage by opening the pit - that is, removing the cover or digging, as well as by
- extending the pit damage by digging the pit deeper.
We again emphasize that the driving force behind the Rashi derivation is not some vague Talmudic pilpul but
rather the bulleted structure indicated by the repeating keyword, when. This bulleted
structure requires an interpretation of and indicates an unspecified emphasis and distinctness in
each bulleted item.