After two weeks biking through the Italian Alps, Russ and Jay, both grad students in Italian literature, descended to Milan, where they were booked at the Olinda Hostel. Outside a drug store on a medium-sized city street, Russ signaled Jay to stop.
Russ asked, “Can you please watch my bike for a second while I go into this drug store? I need some contact lens solution.”
“No problem,” said Jay, and Russ entered the store.
Jay set Russ’s Trek Lush down on the sidewalk and, looking to exercise his semi-fluent Italian, got into an absorbing and animated conversation with an elderly Italian gentleman, always keeping a vigilant eye on Russ’s bicycle. To his surprise, two large men with sunglasses suddenly appeared, lifted up the bike, jumped into a nearby car, and sped away before Jay could even react!
Is Jay responsible for Russ’s stolen Trek Lush worth $2,634.00?
Who is responsible when an object – a bicycle or car, a smartphone or laptop, a wallet or jewelry – is given to a friend for safekeeping and gets lost, stolen, or ruined? This is a question whose answer is often not clear-cut. The issue of who foots the bill for the loss gets complicated when someone other than the owner enters the picture. Such cases may be: when I ask a friend to watch my computer for me; when I leave my car in the care of the attendant (watchman) of a private parking lot; or when I rent a bike. In this shiur we will search for answers to the question “Who is responsible?” Through classic Talmudic passages about shomrim (watchmen), we will learn the underlying principles that determine accountability, applying the Torah’s values of justice and fairness to everyday life situations.
This NLE Thinking Gemara shiur addresses key questions such as:
- What is the Torah’s framework for determining who is responsible when a loss takes place?
- Can I be held accountable for the loss of someone else’s property just because he left it in my possession?
- Is a friend who does me a favor by guarding my object just as responsible as a paid watchman or guard?
- What responsibility does someone have if he rents an object, and it gets lost, stolen, or ruined?
- How does the halachah view the accountability of someone who repairs other people’s objects in his or her own shop or home?