Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Ki Tetze
To dedicate this lesson
Ki Tetze 5778

At The Shabbat Table


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Elul 12 5778
The expensive trip to Meron

In preparation for Rosh Hashana, a few teenage boys decided to organize a trip to Meron, so that they could pray at the grave of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai. They called a taxi company, and requested a van, large enough to accommodate the group.
Bright and early the next day, the van pulled up, and the boys excitedly piled in. Their excitement began to wane, as they encountered one traffic jam after another. The boys were becoming irritable with the prolonged ride, and with Meir, the driver, who seemed to be driving a little too cautiously for their liking. Meir was becoming fed up with all the complaining. When he got to a clear stretch of road, he slammed his foot down on the gas pedal, and the van began to speed along the highway. The boys were delighted.
Suddenly, the heard a siren, followed by a voice on a loudspeaker, ordering the car to pull over. A policeman sidled up to the car, and asked for Meir’s license and registration. The boys waited anxiously, as the policeman scribbled on his pad. The policeman handed the slip of paper to the Meir, and walked away.
"Do you want to know what your impatience is costing me?!" Meir grumbled. "750 shekel, and eight points on my license, that’s what!"
The boys sat in uncomfortable silence, wondering what to do next. After a few minutes, Dani began to talk. "I think we should chip in to pay for the ticket. We’re the ones who made him drive fast."
"No way!" countered Eliezer. "Meir is the one who drove the car, so he should pay for the ticket."
Who is correct?

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, shlita:

The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 395, se’if 1) states that one who incites a dog to cause damage to someone is obligated to pay the damages, in accordance with Heavenly judgment. (This is the case, despite the fact that the person who incited the dog would not be held liable, in human court. This is due to the fact that the transgression constituted grama (indirectly causing a given outcome).)
While the case of the boys causing Meir to speed appears to be similar, there is, in fact, a significant difference. The case mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch concerns damage caused through a dog. In this case, the damage is caused through a human being! A person is responsible for the outcome of his actions, even if he was instructed to act by someone else.
Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita:
The boys are definitely obligated to pay Meir, according to Heavenly judgment. This is in accordance with the Gemara (Kiddushin 43), which states that if one person instructs another person to commit a transgression, despite the fact that the primary responsibility falls on the one who did the actual action, the Heavenly court also holds the sender liable, to some degree.
Rabbi Ariel adds that the question of the boys, as to whether or not they should pay, is completely out of place. Why would they think that it’s alright to ask the driver to speed, and then not have to pay for the ticket, which he got as a result? This is completely unethical. Particularly given the fact that it is the month of Elul, and we are supposed to be committing ourselves to improving our actions, how could they even consider not paying?
It appears the boys should pay roughly half of the fine. However, because the driver also got points on his license, it seems that it is appropriate for the boys to pay the entire monetary fine.
Editor’s note: It is reasonable to assume that Rabbi Kanievsky also feels that the boys are ethically bound to pay, despite the fact that they are not technically liable, in terms of Heavenly judgment

Summary: According to Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, Meir is liable to pay, and the boys are not obligated, according to Heavenly judgment. According to Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita, the boys are obligated, according to Heavenly judgment. Additionally, Rabbi Ariel maintains that it is obvious that there is a moral obligation, and the boys would have to pay, even if there were no technical obligation. Therefore, the boys should pay a minimum of half the fine, and possibly the entire monetary fine, because Meir also got points on his license.

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