Parsha Mitzvot-Mishpatim-Mitzvah 52 – Concept 466
“If a fire shall go forth and find thorns, and a stack of grain or a standing crop or a field is consumed, the one who kindled the fire shall make restitution.” (Exodus 22:5) The courts must judge the damages incurred by fire. (Rambam, Hilchot Nizkei Mamon – The Laws of Property Damages)
There is, of course, also a moral-ethical approach to this paragraph. The Torah describes the wicked practicing their wickedness in order to awaken man from his lethargic and mindless sleep when he observes how evil takes root all around him.
The Torah says, “When fire spreads,” a simile traditionally describing people’s problems. We find a description of this in the Talmud (Yoma 77) describing certain aspects of the prophet Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel, chapter 10, where the archangel Gabriel is portrayed as asking the “man clothed in linen,” an angel in charge of fire, to prepare the destruction of Jerusalem by fire. This angel is to be regarded as a symbol of an intensified attribute of Justice at work.
When the Torah speaks of, “and finds thorns,” this is a reference to the wicked who are considered nothing but painful thorns.
The expression, “and find,” may be understood in a sense similar to Deuteronomy 31:21 that “trouble found them.” The justification for using the word “find,” is that the wicked have no one who is responsible for them, either benevolently or otherwise. Wickedness means rejection of authority. God is the only true authority, and He has abandoned them as a result of their deliberate wickedness. Anything that happens in their lives subsequently is in the nature of a “find,” something one comes upon accidentally.