Torah Portion: Mishpatim
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 (Shemos 22:5).
It is a positive commandment upon the court to judge someone who caused his fellow damage by fire—such as if he set flame to his stacked grain, or burned anything of his—as it says: If a fire shall go forth… the one who kindled the fire shall make restitution (Shemos 22:5). The wording “shall go forth” implies even if it spread by itself, and the verse is coming to warn that even if a person kindled a fire within his own property and it spread by itself and caused damage, he is liable, because he did not guard his flame. For a man is responsible to watch his fire that it not spread and do damage, since it is the way of fire to spread by itself, even though it is not a living creature.
The root of the mitzvah is well-known, as we have stated.
This mitzvah applies to men who are fit to judge. A court that transgresses this and does not charge the one who causes the damage to make payment, as it is written in Scripture, violates a positive commandment.