It takes two people to fight — So G-d splits the blame
Children Fight. Couples fight. Parents and children Fight. Relatives Fight. Animals Fight. Who’s to blame?
The Parsha section of Mishpatim, which comes right after the Ten Commandments, deals with the Laws of Damages, many of which relate to damages done by animals, especially oxen.
One of the laws deals with a tame ox, called the “shor tam”. The Torah states that in a case of an attack by an ox (or any animal) against another animal, the owner of the attacking animal will pay only half of the damage cost.
That said, provided that the ox is not a serial attacker. Serial attacker usually pays the full amount of its damages.
This type of “compromise law” is difficult to understand. If the owner is to blame for not guarding his animal – he should have to pay the full amount, and if he is not to be held guilty – assuming he couldn’t have anticipated the attack – he should be exempt from any payment whatsoever!
Yet in today’s world, in the car accident field, this is many times the result in what we call no-fault insurance. Assuming that the person wasn’t drunk, who really knows who was at fault, unless one person admits it (which rarely happens). Since neither or both are to blame, we split the costs 50/50.
The Oral Bible (the Gemara) attempted to tackle this issue (Bava Kama 15a) and disputed about the logic behind this legal compromise:
One opinion suggested that the owner of the attacker isn’t responsible at all, but nonetheless still needs to pay 50% as a “warning fine” which will teach him to guard his animal in the future.
The opposing opinion claimed that the owner is fully responsible and should really been made to pay the full amount, but receives a “first time” 50% concession.
This is called the one free bite rule, in the sense that the owner really didn’t know the dog was going to bite, but we have to either settle the case or warn him for the future.
A novel and original alternative explanation to this unique ruling is suggested by R’ Chizkia ben Mano’ach, the Chizkuni (France, 13th century), and reiterated hundreds of years later by R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch: They claim that the reason the owner of the attacking animal needs to compensate for only half of the damages is not because of a fine or concession, but rather because the payment is split between the two parties involved in the fight – they are both equally held responsible for the situation and its consequences. The reason for that is because when a tame animal attacks another, without any prior violent history, no party can be blamed any more than the other. Does one know what or who caused the fight, who was the main aggressor that led to the attack?
When the two kids are fighting, we weren’t there. They both blame the other.
For all we know, the specific outcome may have been only sheer chance, and could have ended with an exactly opposite result. In other words – says the Talmud it takes two animals – or people – to fight”, and therefore one cannot put the blame entirely on one side.
Now there are situations when there is no one to blame, and therefore both sides have to take the responsibility upon themselves and not throw it on others. I believe this ruling is referring not only to animals and damages, but also teaching us a very important lesson about human nature and proper social behavior.
Too many times, when things go wrong we tend to exert too much effort into searching for someone to blame when there may be no such person.
Instead of blaming each other – tells us the Torah – we should rather share our responsibilities and positively combine efforts to solve our problems and deal with the challenges that face us every day.
As a marriage counselor, in nearly all cases I can testify that it takes two people to have a fight. Why does someone get mad? Because he can not control the circumstances. Feelings of anger arise due to how we interpret and react to certain situations. Everyone has their own triggers for what makes them angry, but some common ones include situations in which we feel: threatened or attacked. … like people are not respecting our feelings or possessions.
Specifically, that people become angry when they perceive something as unpleasant, unfair, blameworthy, etc.
To start, let’s look at the simplest part of this formula: the trigger event. There is always some sort of event that happens right before someone gets angry that serves as the trigger (e.g., being cut off in traffic, being insulted by a coworker, your wife sleeping on Friday night when you come home from the synagogue, instead of being ready). Typically, people think that their anger is caused by these situations and they say things like, “I got mad because I got cut off by the driver in front of me” or “that guy made me so mad.” The implication here is that those events caused their anger directly, and there were no other mitigating factors. Of course, we know that can’t be true. If it were, everyone would respond the same way to such situations. In other words, we would all react the same when we were cut off in traffic or when we were insulted, or when your wife drives you nuts.
The second part of this, the preanger state, includes how the person was feeling physiologically and psychologically right before the situation. When people are tired, anxious, or already angry, they are more likely to respond with anger. Some of this has to do with simple physiological arousal. A nervous person already has an elevated heart rate so doesn’t have as far to go to become angry.
If you feel yourself getting angry, what should you do?
Tell yourself to calm down. Slowly repeat gentle phrases to yourself like “take it easy,” “cool off,” or whatever works for you.
Force yourself to leave the situation. Take a time out, walk away, and avoid coming back too soon. Take a walk or go for a run.
Use visualization to calm down. Close your eyes and picture yourself in your favorite place.
Count to 10 (or 50… or 100) if you feel like you’re about to do or say something harmful. It’s a quick, easy way to separate yourself mentally from the situation.
Splash some cold water on your face.
Slow down and focus on your breathing. Conscious breathing involves taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose, and slowly out through your mouth.
Phone a friend. Do you have a supportive friend or family member who can lend an ear and calm you down?
Try to replace negative, angry thoughts with positive, rational ones. Even if you’re feeling upset, remind yourself that getting angry isn’t going to fix the way that you’re feeling.
Remember as the Bible teaches it Takes to Tango