Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Bava Kama: פרקים א-ב

Perek Aleph: ארבעה אבות נזיקין

Four groupings of damage may be
Inflicted on you or on me:
The ox and the pit
Are the fire. That’s it?
Oh, the Maveh. The Maveh? You’ll see.

An ox can do harm in three ways
Horn – he willfully rams. Master pays.
Teeth – he’ll eat what he’ll find
(If he’s yours, you’ll be fined)
Foot – He tramples where others must graze.

“Be your own bodyguard” that’s the law.
Don’t extend to your friend a big claw.
One who sleeps, he can be
Flailing dangerously–
He can hurt with his arms, legs and jaw.

For a mitzvah, spend up to one third.
Third of all that you’ve got? Oh my word!
What if then there are three
Mitzvot? How can that be —
You’d be bankrupt. That’s clearly absurd.

Five men sat on a bench. It stayed strong.
Then a sixth man came ambling along.
He sat down. It went splat
It was Papa, who’s fat!
Well, then Papa’s the one in the wrong.

This one’s sad. If a baby’s born dead
The placenta takes time, and instead
It comes out one day late
Mom must count days and wait
Til she’s pure. Count from when? From the head.

If a newborn is torn limb from limb
By a wild beast, say, on a whim.
There’s no need to redeem
It would be quite unseem-
Ly. Poor baby! (Poor what’s-left-of-him.)

Olah, Chatat, Asham – we can’t eat
Of their sacrificed burnt altar meat.
But the Shlamim, like most,
You can eat. Make a toast!
To dead animals! Ooh, what a treat.

“Dude, your cow trampled on my Tallit!”
“Your Tallit brought my cow to its feet!”
So two men scream and shout.
Does it all even out?
Don’t assume it’s all so nice and neat.

Do not keep a dog in your house
(It could bite off the head of your spouse)
Or a rickety ladder
(It might slip and shatter
And injure much more than a mouse.)

When it’s time for the Modim prayer, make
Sure you bow – there’s a lot here at stake!
If you don’t, then your spine
After seven years time
In the grave – it will turn to a snake!

Rabbi Yochanan’s students would cry:
“Teach us this halacha! How and why!”
He would answer. But he,
When he needed to pee
Would then wait ’til he washed to reply.

Perek Bet: כיצד הרגל מועדת

The perilous feet of a beast
Can cause damage – some damage at least.
When it walks it will break
Any jug in its wake
Scatter pebbles and leave your rug creased.

Your chickens were dancing in dough
(These were quite jolly chickens, you know.)
They pecked at the batter
Their footprints made splatter
It’s full-damage payment you owe.

Reuven threw a great jug from on high
While the jug was midair through the sky
Shimon came with a staff
Broke the jug into half
It would break anyway! Jugs don’t fly!

A dog took a still-flaming cake
Off the coals and proceeded to take
To the haystack his food
Quite a fire ensued
Restitution his master must make.

A chicken was dancing in dough
Soon the chicken, it seems, had to go.
Not a nice sight, is it?
Home-made baked chicken shit?
Would you eat it? Ahem, that’s a no.

A chicken extended its beak
In a vessel of glass. Then it shrieked.
Oh the glass – how it shattered
The pieces were scattered
What havoc a chicken can wreak!

A chicken with string ’round its foot
Runs. (A chicken, we know, can’t stay put.)
It flutters and breaks
Everything in its wake
Strewing dirt, pebbles, feathers and soot.

The cat ate my gymsuit –it’s true!
Paula Fox, here’s a sugya for you!
Is the way of a cat
To eat something like that?
No? Then cat-owner owes me a few.

What if I set up camp in your yard?
I live rent-free when living gets hard.
You’re not even aware
That I’m living right there.
I get benefit; you don’t get scarred.

Rav Chisda asked, “How do we know
If the tenant pays not-in-the-know
Master? Rami bar Chama
Said “Bring my pajama
I’ll answer if you serve me. Go.”

There were orphans who owned a trash heap
There they stored what it is orphans keep.
Some guy built there a castle
Said Nachman, “A hassle
You’ve caused. And I hold it not cheap!’

A camel is carrying flax
Which ignites in some hot burning wax
That is hung at the door
Of a man’s roadside store–
“Was it Chanukah then,” you must ask.

A cow enters a fine fancy home
Not a place where a cow tends to roam!
Rubs its back on the wall
And erases the scrawl
Of the mural. Who repaints the home?

The Torah is from where we know
A principle known as Dayo
If Miriam were spat
At by father, well that
Would mean one week. And God rules just so.

A man has a rock on his chest
He gets up and it falls from his breast.
Is the damage his fault?
He meant not to assault!
He pays Nezek, but not all the rest.

A baby is thrown off a roof
It resembles a comic book spoof:
Below, someone comes toward
It with quite a large sword.
Slashing baby midair. Babe goes poof!

Someone falls off a roof and he lands
In a woman (Er… not in her hands)
What was done has been done
(And perhaps it was fun)
Are they married? This was not the plan!

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