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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ki Tavo

Ki Tavo 5778

At The Shabbat Table

4
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Negative Developments

Thank you to the husband of Ayala in the story (not her real name), who shared this story, as well as the written response of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel and the oral response of Rabbi Asher Weiss.

Ayala smiled happily. She had just spent the past few hours angling her camera, adjusting lights, and telling people to smile, trying to capture the highlights of the Bat Mitzva party which she had been hired to photograph. She enjoyed photography, and got a particular thrill from turning meaningful moments into treasured memories, for her clients to enjoy in the future. She packed her equipment into her car, and drove home, eager to start working on the Bat Mitzva album, the next day.
The next morning, Ayala sat down, and began to go through the pictures from the evening before. However, the more she looked through the pictures on her camera, the more concerned Ayala became. In place of the dozens of pictures which she had taken, there were just a few pictures! Ayala looked through the pictures over and over again, hoping against hope that the missing pictures would appear. She turned off the camera, and turned it back on again. Nothing. Ayala felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. The pictures were gone! Ayala realized that the only way to get the pictures back would be for her to pay an expert to recover the pictures. But that would cost thousands of shekel!
Ayala didn’t know what to do. How could she tell the family of the Bat Mitzva what had happened? And what should she do about the money? Was she obligated to pay thousands of shekel to an expert to recover the pictures? Or should she pay the family money, to compensate them for the damage which she caused them? What should Ayala do?

Answer:
Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita:

Ayala did not actually cause monetary damage to the Bat Mitzva girl or her family. The photographic film is the property of the photographer, and not her clients. However, because Ayala caused the family aggravation, because the pictures disappeared, she should offer them a monetary compensation.
(One might ask how it is that we know that there is an obligation to compensate another person for aggravation, and not actual monetary loss. We see an indication of this in the responsa of the Maharik (siman 173). There, the Maharik discusses the practice in which a prospective bride and groom agree, before engagement, that, if one side chooses to dissolve the engagement, that party will pay monetary compensation to the other party. The Maharik explains that mental anguish is taken into account, in Jewish law, and is not merely an insignificant factor. In truth, the case the Maharik discusses involves a prior agreement, and Ayala’s story does not involve a prior agreement regarding aggravation. Nonetheless, the case brought by the Maharik is relevant, because it shows that aggravation does factor into Jewish legal decisions.
In conclusion, although Ayala is not required to pay an expert to recover the pictures, because the film belongs to her, if the family decides that they would like to pay to recover the missing pictures, Ayala should contribute toward that expense.

Epilogue: Ayala called up the family, and apologized profusely for the awful mishap. She offered to compensate them for the lost pictures, by creating a special clip, in honor of the Bat Mitzva. The girl was so excited with the offer, and explained "The Bat Mitzva party was a disaster. I don’t know that I would have wanted to be reminded of all the details. A clip is much better! Everything worked out for the best!"
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