Restitution for Animals – Parshat Emor 24: 18
Hi. I’m working with a friend’s son on his bar mitzah dvar torah for parshat Emor. In Perek 24 pasuk 18, it says “One who kills a beast shall make restitution for it: life for life. ” (the translation is taken from Sefaria.org). This pasuk follows the story about the half-Egyptian/half-Israelite who blasphemes and is then stoned by the community. In the verses nearby we read about a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Then we read again that if an animal’s life is taken restitution is made.
Here’s my question (and I didn’t see anything in the commentary that addresses it). These two verses don’t say that these animals who were killed belonged to anyone. Is that strictly implied? Or do we take it literally, that some kind of restitution must be made if we kill any animal? What if it’s an animal that lives freely in the wild, that we kill intentionally or accidentally? Is some kind of restitution due for even an ownerless animal? If yes, how or to whom does one make that restitution?
Thank you for your help.
The animal must be owned in order for the person who killed it to pay restitution. If the animal is not owned and wild, there is no one to pay the monetary worth to. This is actually hinted to by the word the Torah uses for an animal – beheimah. Our Sages teach that a beheimah is a domesticated animal, whereas a chayah is a non-domesticated animal.
I wish you every success in your endeavors!
Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team