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Beit Midrash Family and Society Theft and Damage

At the Shabbat Table

When Push Came to Shove

2
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The more Benny thought it over, the more he was convinced. His plan really would give a boost to the national economy. The fact that no one in any position of power had asked him for his thoughts on the matter didn’t deter Benny. He continued on with his daily walk and contemplations. Somehow, the combination of the late afternoon sun, setting over the distant hills, and thinking about problems that he had no responsibility to solve, provided a much needed chance to unwind at the end of the day.
Benny’s ruminations were interrupted suddenly, as a ball unexpectedly came within inches of his face. Instinctively, Benny hit the ball out of the way. A loud "owww!" drew Benny’s gaze from the sunset toward the sidewalk.
There, to Benny’s great surprise, was a man lying on the ground, clutching his face!
"Whaa? Are you OK?" Benny stammered.
"Not really" came the muffled groan. "The ball you hit away from you just knocked me over."
Benny helped the man to his feet. The two of them assessed the damage. The man was more startled than hurt. His glasses, on the other hand, looked like they could use some serious help. Or, more accurately, like they were beyond help.
"I know you didn’t mean to knock me over, but I really think that you should pay me for breaking my glasses."
If Benny had been startled by the offending projectile, he was even more shocked by the man’s suggestion. Did Benny really have to compensate the man for breaking his glasses? After all, Benny had just been trying to protect himself!
Answer of Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, zt"l:
It seems that Benny is obligated to pay for the broken glasses. If he had been hit by the ball, instead of pushing it away, it might have hurt him a little. However, this action does not meet the criteria for "self-protection."
However, if the object flying toward Benny had been a rock, and not a ball, it seems that Benny would have been exempt from paying the man for the damage to his glasses. This is because a person is not expected to take a hard hit, without trying to defend himself. Therefore, such an action would be considered "self-protection," and the resulting damage would be considered "oness" (forced, i.e. against the will of the damager), and he would, therefore, be exempt from paying.
Summary:
Benny has to pay for the glasses.
(הערה- ראה ספר חשוקי חמד, בבא קמא כט., עמ' רח, שדן במקרה דומה).
Rabbi Daniel Kirsch
Rabbi Daniel Kirsch studied for many years at the famed Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. He currently lives in Kedumim in the Shomron, where he studies at the yeshiva and teaches classes for adults. In addition, he teaches at an elementary school.
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