Tied Up in Knots Over a Goring Ox

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ the Talmud tries to make sense of an incoherent Biblical law about awarding damages

.. According to Exodus, an ox that kills a human being is to be stoned to death immediately; yet it is only after goring three times that the ox earns the designation “forewarned.” How, then, could any ox ever be forewarned, when it wouldn’t live long enough to kill three times? As the Gemara says in Bava Kamma 41a, “How can you find a forewarned ox?” One straightforward answer to this question would be that the Bible is incoherent on this point, that it simply did not think things through. But of course such an answer is unavailable to the rabbis, who are fairly free in elaborating and revising the Bible, but never simply criticize or repudiate it.

.. An ox, the Mishna says, can be “forewarned with regard to Shabbatot”: That is, an ox that has a habit of goring on Shabbat would not be considered forewarned for goring on a weekday. This distinction initially seems to make no sense—surely an ox doesn’t keep track of the calendar, so how could the distinction between Shabbat and weekday be meaningful to it? According to the Jerusalem Talmud, the Koren edition notes the reason is that people wear different clothes on Shabbat, which might confuse the ox, leading it to gore people it perceives as strangers.

..  This dynamic is one reason the process of interpreting and codifying Jewish law is open-ended: The Talmud is not the end of argument, but the beginning.

The Lasting Legacy of Antonin Scalia?

Justice Scalia has this view that when Congress passes a law, you read the text of the law, but you don’t read all the legislative history around it. Why? He says that’s often doctored, it’s advocates trying to get their particular views in committee reports. He has won that debate. He has persuaded a majority of the Court to do that.


.. Now, he’s gone further, though, saying, “Just read the text, don’t try to understand the purpose behind the text.” That’s a losing argument. So we’re seeing sometimes Justice Scalia overplaying his hand and reaching results that aren’t going to command a majority of the Court.

Q. and A. With Charles Plosser of the Fed: Raise Rates Sooner Rather Than Later

Date-based guidance sometimes seems like a way for the Fed to achieve a consensus without actually achieving agreement.

That’s actually part of a challenge for the goal of consensus policy-making. To build a consensus you make vague statements that everybody can interpret any way they want to. Is that good communication? No, because everyone on the committee gets to interpret it their own way and then people get confused as to what it really means.

.. Basically prioritize precision over consensus.


.. We’ve entered a period where we’re kind of in uncharted territory. We don’t fully understand what happened or what made it happen. Economists are still debating the Great Depression. We’re going to be debating this for a long time, too.

.. But by 2010 we weren’t in a financial crisis anymore. My own view is that the rationale switched completely. It was no longer about providing liquidity; it was about providing stimulus at the zero lower bound.