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Chapter 3 introduces the foundations of the Maimonidean theory: the scope of tort law, its connection to criminal law, the classification of the different categories of tort law, and the various objectives underlying each of these categories. We argue that understanding Maimonides’s tort theory and providing a complete view of his theory requires three things: An awareness that Maimonides’ theory incorporates various goals and considerations that operate in concert; the understanding that Maimonides introduced different goals for different categories of damage; and a focus both on what Maimonides wrote in his Code and in the Guide and in his other works such as Commentary to the Mishnah and Responsa. In each category of damage one goal (or more) is (or are) more dominant than the others. A fundamental division into different types of torts emerges from the classification of the Book of Torts in the Code: The basic distinction between damages that are caused by a person’s property and damages that are caused by the person himself; the distinction between a person who causes physical injury to another and a person who damages the property of another; and the distinction between regular damage to nuisance and damages to neighbors.
In Chapter 2 we will present the difficulties facing those who seek to understand Maimonides’ tort theory as it appears in the Code alone, and according to the common interpretation (the “yeshivah reading”). Several contemporary scholars, as well as rabbis from the Lithuanian yeshivot, identified a different element as an alternative to the element of peshiah, i.e., the element of ownership, and some say ownership and strict liability, by virtue of which liability is imposed for damage caused by a person’s property. We will examine this approach critically and conclude that it does not accurately reflect Maimonides’ position, for it raises serious difficulties, both conceptual-principled and exegetical. We will point to a trend of new explanations of the Jewish sources through the speculum of the common tort theories in the twentieth century in the world of Jewish law. Chapter 2 will leave us with many open questions, which will be answered in the subsequent chapters. The book contains three main parts: (a) Questions; (b) Answers; and (c) Dialogue. Chapter 2 presents the questions to be dealt with in the book. Chapters 3–6 supply answers, and Chapters 7–8 offer a dialogue between Maimonides and various contemporary tort theories.
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