Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Friendly Torts

What is a tort?  Simple: a wrongful act or an infringement of a right (other than under contract) leading to civil legal liability.  Doesn't sound very friendly, does it?  The halacha for torts is found, of course, in the Choshen Mishpat section of the Shulchan Aruch.  You are not going to find and Art Scroll version, nor even a Mishna Brura on those laws.  The laws are complex and detailed; the tiniest differences can change who owes whom and how much.

There is a story that a R' Yisrael Salanter was once traveling and struck up a conversation with a fellow Jew.  The other passenger related that he was changing careers.  Up till now he had been a shochet (ritual slaughterer), but he was becoming increasingly nervous and worried about what could happen if he made a mistake.  He could be responsible for untold number of innocent Jews eating treif food!  It had gotten to the point that he couldn't sleep any more.  R' Salantar asked what he planned to do for a livelihood, and the man answered that he was going into business.  "What!?", exclaimed R' Salantar, "Up till now you have be responsible for carefully keeping the laws in Yoreh Dei'ah,  Very important, of course, but mostly d'rabanans.  Now you want to go into keeping Choshen Mishpat?  That's almost entirely d'oraisos!"  (R' Salanter, the great ba'al mussar, also knew when to be straight with someone.)  Now they are complex, detailed, and scary!

The truth is, though, that all of us need to deal with Choshen Mishpat questions every day.  Here are a couple that come from a different angle then most.  (More here; and better relayed.)

Reuven bought a chair for 4,000 shekel to be used as the Kisei shel Eliyahu for bris mila in a certain shul.  Reuven lends it to the shul and even puts a small plaque on it saying that the chair is on loan.  The (very well known) rebbe uses that chair for every bris mila where he is the sandek for 10 years; until his p'tira (death), in fact.  Reuven goes to get his chair and a chasid of the rebbe, now zatzal offers Reuven 30,000 shekel for the chair!  Reuven realizes that the chair is a gold mine and starts calling around to chasidim of the late rebbe and finally takes 40,000 shekel for the chair.  Then Reuven starts thinking... it is true that it is his chair, but the fact that the rebbe sat in it as sandek for 10 years is what increased its value.  Reuven knows a mishna in Bava Basra that if an olive tree gets planted into someone else's field, takes root and grows into big olive producing tree, then the owner of the field and the owner of the olive tree split the profits.  After all, you need both.  Maybe the same thing applies here, reasons Reuven, and he owes half the profit to the rebbe's sons.  (He doesn't.)

Another case: a girl got engaged in Eretz Yisrael and her parents and in-laws go to buy an apartment for the young couple.  The father finds an amazing apartment in a great building.  The girl goes to look and agrees that it is perfect.  One problem: a friend of hers who is a little older and hasn't found her b'shert lives there.  More: the older sister -- also still unmarried -- also lives in that building.  The girl doesn't know if it is right to live there where her friend and older sister will have to see this younger friend every day as a new kalla while they are still looking.  The father asked R' Chaim Kanievsky, who said he could not posken such a sh'eila and told the father to ask R' Aryeh Leib Shteinman.  R' Shteinman first said, "it is obviously permissible to buy and live in the apartment."  Then R' Shteinman closed his eyes and said over and over, "But how can one do that?  How can one do that?"  The father suggested buying the apartment as an investment, renting it out, and using that money to rent an apartment for the young couple until they want to move.  R' Shteinman excitedly agreed and gave his bracha to the enterprise.  (Both friends were engaged within two weeks after the young lady's chasuna.  Perhaps the bracha of the tzadik?)

A frum Jew learns halacha to be sure he is doing things right, not to see what angles he can work.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…