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Unconsciously or unintentionally hurting someone


Rabbi Moshe Leib Halberstadt

Nisan 11, 5778
If someone else points out to me that I have hurt this other person by something I’ve done or said, but I’m unaware of it; aren’t sure or can’t remember whether I actually said something or did something or not, or If I just experienced it differently, or if I’m just convinced that I didn’t do anything of what’s been pointed out to me, and besides it wasn’t my intention to hurt the other person in any case. Then how should I deal with it? How should I react? Could it be possible I did an unconscious sin against a fellow Jew? How can I solve such a situation Halachically or conform in line with the Torah? Is it then sufficient (and my duty) to recognize the other person in his feeling and show understanding by saying something like: "I’m sorry if something has happened, been said or done, that may have hurt you. Never and never have I wanted, nor was it my intention to hurt you deliberately, consciously or unconsciously".
"Man is always "Muad" (considered a habitual damager and is therefore responsible) whether unintentionally or intentionally, whether awake or asleep" (Bava Kamma 2: 6). Our sages teach us that a person is always responsible for his actions, and he should make sure no one is harmed by him. The right thing to do according to our holy Torah is to apologize appropriately. Rabbi Tzvi Levitan, Rosh Yeshivah of "Or HaChaim" in Slabodka was very meticulous in the Mitzvot between man and his fellow, he guarded his mouth and tongue up to perfection, and was very careful not to harm any person, and avoid any pain or damage. Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlap of Yerushalayim gave an example which was one of many: While I was young, I was once distracted while praying Shmoneh Esreh and leaned against the wall. R' Tzvi felt this, and commented to me about the prohibition. (See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 94: 8). This happened in the middle of the summer. On the night of Yom Kippur, I prayed with R' Tzvi in the same Shul (synagogue0. After "Kol Nidrei" I saw that R' Tzvi had risen from his seat and was looking back and forth, apparently searching for someone in the congregation who had been hurt by him and must be appeased. Suddenly R' Tzvi came up to me and asked my forgiveness for that reproach; because perhaps he was not careful enough in the style and form of his rebuke, and that distressed me... (Hizaharu B'chvod Chvreichem p. 292).
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