Parsha Mitzvot-Mishpatim-Rabbeinu Bachya: Mitzvah 51 – Concept 464
“If a man permits livestock to devour a field or vineyard, whether he set loose his livestock or he grazed it in another’s field, from the best of his field and the best of his vineyard shall he pay.” (Exodus 22:4) The courts must judge the damages incurred by an animal eating. (Rambam, Hilchot Nizkei Mamon – The Laws of Property Damages)
The Talmud (Gittin 48) uses this wording to arrive at the general ruling that when compensation is assessed by the court for damages caused willfully or through negligence, the guilty party’s most valuable agricultural property Is used. If the court would be content to take comparable produce grown on inferior soil belonging to the party causing the damage this would encourage such a party to openly steal the best quality of produce of his neighbor and have the court replace it with inferior quality from his own field or vineyard.
In such cases the guilty party would profit from his crime. In order to discourage a farmer from engaging in this kind of pilfering, the law is slanted in favor of the victim so that the thief will realize that it will not pay for him to steal. Rabbeinu Bachya
My father zt”l once challenged me to incorporate this concept in my parenting.