This paper, following a short methodological introduction, presents an analysis of the first sugya of tractate Baba Kama, a well-known talmudic passage about the four fathers of damages—four categories of torts, and their offspring (derivative torts). The examination of this talmudic passage by previous scholars has resulted in the undisputed estimation that explicating the amoraic statement of R. Papa (4th c. C.E.) is its central goal. I suggest putting forward the additional interpretive question, related to Quentin Skinner's methodology: "What is the author of this passage doing by composing this passage in this particular way?" The result is recognition that explicating R. Papa's statement is merely a marginal goal of the sugya's narrator, who is, at the same time, doing something else: negating the mishnaic criterion for liability of torts by offering an alternative one. The author does so by rephrasing the mishnaic criterion ten times. This paper demonstrates the benefits of adding an interpretive question focused on the dimension of linguistic action as well as the techniques for answering it.


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