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Pane Relief - question and Answer Vayechi

Written by , 20/12/2018


Haste like water, do not take more (Bereishit 49:4)

Rashi: The haste and the confusion with which you hurried to show your anger, like these waters, which hurry in their flow. Therefore you will not get the added privileges which had been due to you.

Pane Relief

(From the book Dvar Chevron section I, siman 107)

David was in mid-discussion with a few of his roommates, when a three of his friends suddenly burst into the room.

Without waiting for an introduction, the three boys began to cry out David, we need your help!

David and his roommates eyed the three boys with wonder, as the boys went on to explain that, just minutes before, a bunch of seventh graders had run into the boys room, grabbed a bunch of clothing off of Gabis shelf, and ran out of the room laughing hysterically. Davids friends explained that they knew exactly where the seventh graders had gone, but were scared to get involved with them. Were the smallest kids in the fifth grade! the three explained apologetically. David, maybe you can help us

Big, tall David heard the words of his friends, and immediately asked where are these seventh graders? David was already planning revenge, on behalf of his friends.

The boys pointed through the dorm window, and there, in a corner of the courtyard, David could see a group of seventh graders laughing loudly. It seemed that the culprits were confident in their victory over their fifth grade victims. David planned otherwise.

Silently, David went down the steps, and made his way to a room which was right next to the seventh graders courtyard hangout. David planned to make a surprise attack on the group, by jumping out the window of the room he was in, and silently approaching the seventh graders, under cover of darkness. David clutched a bottle of shaving cream in his hands, eager to avenge the seventh graders wrongdoing, and take back the bag Gabis clothing.

David took a deep breath, and then clambered up to the windowsill. Within seconds, he leaped through the window, and crash!! David found himself dazedly looking at the shards of glass which suddenly surrounded him. How had that pane of glass gotten there? He had been sure that it was a simple jump through the window, to the courtyard. Who had gone and put glass in the window?!

Miraculously, David managed to extricate himself from the glass, without injuring himself. It wasnt long before the news spread, as friends told friends of Davids incredible, glass shattering feat. Soon, even the principal heard about the event.

David soon found himself in the principals office, explaining all that had just transpired. After ascertaining that David was alright, the principal said David, I know that you didnt mean to cause any damage, but youre going to have to pay the school for the window pane.

What? David exclaimed. But I had no idea that the glass was even there! Why would a school put glass in a window, anyway?

Is the principal correct? Does David have to pay the school for the damage?

Answer of Rabbi Dov Lior, shlita:

There is a well-known principle, that a person is always held liable for his actions, whether they are performed intentionally or unintentionally, and even if the damage was caused under duress. (Bava Kama 26a) According to the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat section 378, seif 1, according to the opinion of the Shach) there is no difference between kinds of duress, and a person is, therefore, always held liable, unless the victim of the damage was at fault. However, according to the Rama, one who causes damage under complete duress (i.e. it was not his fault at all) is absolved from having to pay. In our case, even according to the Rama, David is obligated to pay the school for the damage which he caused. His actions are not regarded as performed under duress, rather, as unintentional. The school administration may put objects belonging to the school wherever the administration sees fit, and it is the responsibility of those who enter the school to take notice of the objects in their vicinity. This is even more so, when the damage was caused by a student going through a window, in which case there is no reason to say that he caused damage under duress. Every rational person is capable of contemplating that such an action might potentially cause damage to property[1]

In summary: David is obligated to pay the school for the damage which he caused.

Translated by Avigail Kirsch

[1] . (Also see Shulchan Aruch, siman 412, seif 2, which states that if a person leaves his pitcher in a place where he had a right to leave it, and another person stumbles upon it and breaks it, the one who broke it is held liable. (Also see there Sma, seif katan 2)

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