Chaim, Yosi and Dov were walking through Meah Shearim, choosing gifts to bring back with them from Yeshiva. Chaim and Yosi had already chosen theirs, but Dov kept browsing. It was his parents' 25th anniversary and he was looking for something really special.
Dov finally spotted an exquisite glass tray for Shabbos candlesticks with a delicate gold-tone design of Yerushalayim. "This is exactly what my parents like," he exclaimed. "With the silver candlesticks on it, every Shabbos will be special!"
Pleased with their purchases, the boys headed back to Yeshiva. "Let's stop off for falafel," Chaim suggested. "There's a mehadrin store two blocks away that has room outside to sit."
"Sorry, but I've got to run to a doctor's appointment," said Dov. "Would you mind taking the tray back to Yeshiva for me? I don't want to schlep it around."
"No problem," Yosi assured him. "I'll take good care of it."
Yosi and Chaim headed to the store and chose a table outside. They put the gifts down on the chairs and had falafel. After some time, the boys picked up their gifts and headed back to their Yeshiva.
Halfway there, Yosi stopped in his tracks and groaned, "Oh no! We forgot Dov's tray at the falafel store."
Chaim turned to him, "Do you think it's still there? Someone could have taken it by now!"
"I hope no one took it," said Yosi. "I'll go right back."
He ran back with his heart pounding. He was almost there when he saw a large stray dog bound by and bang into the chair which the tray was on. Yosi watched dumbfounded as the tray fell to the ground and shattered.
He picked up the box with the shattered tray, and returned to Yeshiva.
"Did you find the tray?" Chaim asked him.
"I did," said Yosi, "but a stray dog ran by and knocked it over. It's shattered!"
"Oh no!" exclaimed Chaim. "Just wait till Dov hears this!"
In the evening, Dov came by to get the tray. "I'm really sorry," explained Yosi. "I forgot the tray on a chair, and when I came back, a stray dog knocked the chair over and broke the tray." He gave Dov the box with the shattered tray.
Dov opened the box. "I spent a lot on this tray," he moaned. "I can't afford to buy another one. You assured me you'd take care of the tray!"
"But it's not my fault that it’s broken," responded Yosi. "Who expects a wild dog to come bounding down the street?"
Dov walked out shaking his head. "I really don't know what I'll do."
Yosi went over to Chaim and said, "Dov is very upset at me."
"You did take responsibility for the tray," Chaim reminded him gently. "It was negligent of you to leave it at the store."
"I know," said Yosi, "but it's not my fault that it broke; it was that dog!"
"Whether it's your fault or not, you accepted responsibility," said Chaim. "You owe him for it."
"My parents mentioned that Rabbi Dayan is visiting Israel," said Yosi. "I'll give him a call."
Rabbi Dayan heard the story and said: "Had you been watching the tray when the stray dog ran by, you would not have been responsible. However, since you forgot the tray and left it unattended, you are responsible to pay fully for the tray, based on the principle of t'chilaso b'peshia v'sofo b'oness."
"What does that mean?" asked Yosi.
"Generally, a person who accepts responsibility for an item is responsible for negligence, p'shia, but not for an unexpected or uncontrollable circumstance, oness," explained Rabbi Dayan. "However, if the person was negligent and, in the end, an oness resulted from this, the person remains accountable (C.M. 291:1,6)."
"How does that apply here?" asked Yosi.
"When you forgot the tray at the falafel store, you were negligent," answered Rabbi Dayan. "Another customer could have easily walked off with the tray or accidentally knocked it off the chair. Although this did not happen, but rather something unexpected happened – since the oness resulted from leaving the tray outside unattended, you remain fully responsible."
"That's going to cost me a lot," said Yosi, "but Dov will be relieved that he'll be able to buy another tray."