Story LineOne by OneRabbi Meir Orlean
Mr. Bender and Mr. Miller were adjudicating before Rabbi Dayan.
“Mr. Bender owes me $2,000,” claimed Mr. Miller. “I lent him $1,000 in Adar and another $1,000 in Sivan.”
Rabbi Dayan turned to Mr. Bender. “What do you respond to these claims?” he asked.
“I deny everything,” Mr. Bender replied. “I never borrowed from Mr. Miller, not in Adar and not in Sivan.”
“Do you have any evidence?” Rabbi Dayan asked Mr. Miller.
“I trusted Mr. Bender and didn’t draft any documents,” Mr. Miller answered. “However, I was able to find a single witness about the loan in Adar. He is present.”
Rabbi Dayan called the witness in. “What did you see?” he asked.
“I testify that I saw Mr. Miller lend Mr. Bender $1,000 in Adar,” replied the witness.
Rabbi Dayan turned again to Mr. Bender. “What do you say now?” he asked.
“I say that the witness is lying,” replied Mr. Bender. “I never borrowed money from Mr. Miller. A single witness is not enough to obligate money; you need two witnesses!”
“A single witness does not suffice to obligate money,” said Rabbi Dayan, “but requires the defendant to swear to contradict him” (C.M. 87:1).
“Do you have any further evidence?” Rabbi Dayan asked Mr. Miller.
“Not at the moment. I am still verifying,” replied Mr. Miller. “Can I have some time to seek further evidence?”
“We will give you 30 days,” said Rabbi Dayan. “If you find further evidence, fine. If not, we will deal with the single witness.”
Three weeks later, Mr. Miller notified the beis din that he found another witness.
Rabbi Dayan summoned the parties and the witness. “What did you see?” he asked the second witness.
“I saw Mr. Miller lend Mr. Bender $1,000 in Sivan,” the witness testified.
“What good is the additional witness?!” exclaimed Mr. Bender. “Just as I can contradict the first witness with an oath, I can contradict the second witness with an oath. I vehemently deny borrowing, neither in Adar nor in Sivan.”
“You’re a liar!” responded Mr. Miller. “Two witnesses testify that you owe me money!”
“But each one stands by himself,” argued Mr. Bender.
The two looked at Rabbi Dayan for a ruling.
“Although the two witnesses testify about different events and came at different times,” ruled Rabbi Dayan, “both testify that Mr. Bender owes $1,000, so they obligate him definitively in that sum as two witnesses.”
“How can you combine witnesses?” asked Mr. Bender.
“The Gemara (Sanhedrin 30a) teaches that individual testimonies cannot be combined in capital cases, but they can be combined in monetary cases,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “This applies to testimony given at different times and also to testimony about different events. Ultimately, there are two witnesses that Mr. Bender owes Mr. Miller $1,000” (C.M. 30:6).
“This applies provided that both witnesses can be telling the truth, as in our case,” added Rabbi Dayan. “However, had Mr. Miller admitted that he lent only once, clearly one of the witnesses is lying and is void. Thus, Mr. Bender could swear that he did not borrow, to contradict the remaining witness. Nowadays we generally avoid administering oaths and seek a compromise instead” (C.M. 30:7, 12:2).
“What if I had sworn already in the first session to contradict the first witness?” asked Mr. Bender. “Would he still be able to combine with the second witnesses?”
“Pischei Teshuvah (C.M. 30:9) cites a dispute regarding this,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Responsa Zichron Yosef maintains that the first witness is already neutralized; the defendant can now swear again to neutralize the second witness. However, Shaar Mishpat maintains that the two witnesses still combine and together obligate the defendant in the common sum.”
“In our case, though,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “since Miller claims that he lent twice and Mr. Bender did not swear yet, Mr. Bender must certainly pay $1,000 on the basis of the combined testimony.”
From the BHI HotlineRefuge or Rescue?
Q. Reuven was driving down the street, when a pedestrian suddenly stepped out in front of him. He swerved to avoid the pedestrian, and sideswiped a car parked on the other side of the street. Is he liable for the damage to the parked car?
A. The halachah is that a person is only allowed to damage another person’s property in order to save himself if he intends to pay him for the damage. If he does, indeed, cause damage to another while saving himself, he must pay for that damage (Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 380:3; 359:4). Although some poskim rule that if he is an oness in causing the damage, he is absolved from payment (ibid. 378:1), in a case in which he knew in advance that he would cause damage, he is not absolved and must pay for the damage he did (Shach ibid. 2).
Even someone trying to save his life from a potential murderer is required to pay for any damage he causes in the process.
But this is only true for the person being pursued. If a third party chases an assailant to stop him from murdering, and he causes damage during the pursuit, he is absolved of liability. Chazal were concerned that if a rescuer were required to pay for damages caused during the rescue mission, people would refrain from helping those in danger (ibid. 380:3).
Therefore, if an ambulance driver or even a private citizen driving to save someone from danger causes an accident, he is absolved from payment (Shu”t Shevet Halevi 9:293; see Issue #173).
Some poskim hold that this is true even if the damage is caused deliberately, as long as the rescuer’s intention was to save a person’s life (Nesivos ibid. 72:17 and 340:6). This would apply, for instance, to someone who drove over a lawn to reach the house of someone in mortal danger faster, knowing that his vehicle would cause damage to the landscaping.
Others say that this limitation of liability applies only to damage caused inadvertently to those blocking his path as he rushed to the victim’s aid, but if the damage was caused deliberately, he is required to pay (Meshovev Nesivos ibid.; Shu”t Amudei Ohr 115:10; see Igros Moshe Chosen Mishpat 2:63).
The poskim also debate whether Chazal’s limitation of liability applies to cases in which the rescuer was also in danger and was saving himself along with other potential victims when he caused the damage (Nesivos 340:6), or whether an enactment is unnecessary in such a case, because he certainly will not refrain from saving himself in order to avoid paying for damages (Pnei Yehoshua, Bava Kamma 60b; Minchas Pittim 340:3).
In our case, if Reuven’s intention was to save the life of the pedestrian, and he didn’t realize that he would cause damage to the parked car, he is certainly absolved from payment. If the pedestrian was negligent in walking into the street and he caused the driver to damage the parked car, it is considered at least a grama, which is required to pay latzeis yedei Shomayim (to avoid retribution in Heaven), and perhaps even beis din can obligate him to pay (see Hayashar v’Hatov v. 9, p. 57 and Mishpat Hamazik p. 593).
But if he knew that he would cause damage to the parked car, or if he was trying to save his own life in the process of saving the life of the other person, the halachah is a matter of dispute between the poskim and beis din cannot obligate him to pay.
If an oncoming car, not a pedestrian, strayed into Reuven’s lane, and it was obvious that the other driver’s life was never in danger, and he swerved to save himself, he is certainly required to pay for the damage caused to the parked car (Mishpat Hamazik 7:11).
Money mattersBroker Acquiring for Himself, Part 2#467
Q: I was given an item to sell. How can I acquire it for myself, even according to the first opinion mentioned last week that I am considered like the seller?
A: There are a number of options:
1) Notify the owner of your decision to acquire (C.M. 185:3).
2) Pay the owner, even if you don’t state that you are the buyer, since the owner intends to sell to whoever pays, so that he remains the seller (Machaneh Ephraim, Shluchim #20).
3) Some allow you to appoint an agent to acquire for you. Thus, although you are considered the “seller,” your agent can serve on your behalf as the “buyer.”
4) Some allow you to give the item to someone the owner considers trustworthy and appoint him as the agent to sell in your place. You can then acquire from him. This option is not valid regarding real estate, since real estate cannot be physically handed over, and therefore the agency cannot be transferred (Erech Shai 185:2).