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Posts Tagged ‘Reb Chaim’

Halachos Regarding Damaged Property – Replacement Or Reimbursement?

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

This week’s parshah, Parshas Mishpatim, discusses various halachos regarding monetary issues. One of the topics revolves around when one damages another person’s property. One is responsible to pay for the damage that either he or his possessions caused.

The Machaneh Ephraim (Hilchos Nizkei Mammon) discusses the following scenario – one breaks an item that is worth $10 at the time that it was broken. On the day that the individual is to pay, the item has devalued and is only worth $8. How much does he have to pay, $10 or $8? Similarly, can he replace the item with an exact replica of the broken item that is now worth less or does he have to reimburse the owner with the cash value of the item at the time it was broken?

The Gemara discusses the halacha of this case regarding when one steals an item. If the item is still intact, it can be returned even if the price has decreased. If the item is physically damaged, one cannot return it and cannot buy a new one at the lesser price; rather, he must pay the owner what it was worth at the time it was stolen. Here’s the question: Does the halacha of repaying for damages follow the halacha of stealing, or does it differ – allowing one to replace the damaged item at a lower price?

The Machaneh Ephraim says that this is in fact a machlokes Rishonim. The Rambam, Rashi, and Tosafos are all of the opinion that the halacha of paying for damages does not follow the halacha of repaying for stealing an item, and thus one may replace the item at a lower price or pay the current lower price. The Raavad and the Rush opine that the halacha of reimbursing one for damages that were incurred on one’s property follows the halacha of paying for a broken stolen item; thus one is obligated to pay the value that the item was worth at the time that it was broken.

We can simply explain that the machlokes Rishonim depends on the following question: When one damages an item is he obligated to replace the item, either with an actual item or with money to purchase an item at today’s price, or is he obligated to pay for the loss that the owner incurred at the time of the damage?

Based on this, the Machaneh Ephraim explains the following machlokes between the Rambam and the Raavad (Hilchos To’en V’niten 5:2) – the halacha is that mi’de’oraysa one can only swear regarding movable objects; one cannot swear on a matter concerning land. If one claims that his fellow dug two holes on his land and thereby cheapened the value of the land and his fellow only admits to digging one hole, he does not have to swear mi’de’oraysa. Generally, when one admits to part of a claim he is obligated to swear mi’de’oraysa. However, says the Rambam, since this oath would concern land he is exempt from swearing. The Raavad argues that this case is not considered swearing regarding land, but rather they are disputing how much money is owed – in which case he is obligated to swear mi’de’oraysa.

The Machaneh Ephraim explains that this machlokes is dependent on the question that we discussed above. The Rambam, as mentioned earlier, holds that when one damages an item he is obligated to replace it. Therefore, when one damages land he is obligated to replace the land. This being the reason that the Rambam considered the dispute to be concerning land, he was unable to swear mi’de’oraysa. The Raavad was of the opinion that one is not obligated to replace the item that he damaged, but rather that one is indebted to pay the owner the value that was lost at the time of the damage. It is for this reason that the Raavad said that the dispute here concerns money and not land – thereby allowing for an oath mi’de’oraysa.

Reb Chaim Soloveitchik raised the following question regarding this scenario -  there only exists two of a certain type of stamp and they both belong to one individual. Since two of these stamps exist, they are each worth $50. If there would only be one of them in the world, it would be worth $100. If someone were to destroy one of the stamps, would he be obligated to pay the owner or would we say that since there was technically no loss of money – as the remaining stamp increased in value – he is not obligated to pay?

Initially, Reb Chaim said that it is dependent on the question that we mentioned earlier. If the obligation to pay, when one damages, is to reimburse the owner for his loss, then in this case where there was no loss one need not pay anything. However, if one is obligated to replace an item that he damaged, and if he is unable to replace it he must then pay for it, then in this case that finds him unable to replace the item he should be obligated to pay for it.

Rav Soloveitchik On Tape

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

It’s as if you were in the room.


Rabbi David Holzer, the personal shamash of Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (the “Rav”) from 1972-1979, has just penned a book,The Rav Thinking Aloud (self-published, HolzerSeforim.com), with scores of unedited transcripts of Rav Soloveitchik’s personal conversations on topics ranging from Chabad and Zionism to birth control and women’s hair covering.


According to Holzer, Rav Soloveitchik on occasion allowed him to tape his conversations. Section I of the book is based on these tapes and on Holzer’s notes; Section II contains a 60-page-long transcript of a discussion between Rav Soloveitchik and his students regarding Zionism, aliyah and Yom Ha’atzmaut; and Section III loosely reconstructs, based on notes, a lecture series Rav Soloveitchik delivered in the 1950s on “The Religious Definition of Man.”


The Jewish Press recently spoke with Holzer about his new book.


The Jewish Press: What inspired you to compile this book?


Rabbi Holzer: I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time. I’ve seen the Rav presented in many different lights and very often I’ve heard people say, “The Rav contradicts himself.” So I felt there was a need for a certain clarity because the Rav had very clear views, except that unfortunately people sometimes – intentionally or unintentionally – reflect their own views in how they understand the Rav.


Also, there’s the personal side. When you study somebody, if all you have is his intellectual ideas, you don’t develop a close emotional bond with the person. With a book like this, by the time you get through it, you feel a closeness to the Rav himself. You start feeling like the Rav is close, warm. You appreciate the person more.


Your book publicizes some of Rav Soloveitchik’s private conversations.  Would he have approved?


This is something that I struggle with all the time; it’s something I don’t rest easy with. However, I felt that it’s such an important contribution for people to experience the personal side of the Rav – to really get a closer feeling and appreciation of him. And so far, people who have read the book have told me they appreciated it and have felt inspired.


What was it like being Rav Soloveitchik’s shamash?


For me it was glowing. It was more like having a zeide who takes care of you at the same time you’re supposed to be taking care of him. It was a very close, warm relationship. He was someone you could confide in, discuss things with, and learn a derech ha’chaim. You see the way he acts, the way he talks. It’s on a different level of existence.


Back to the book. You report a conversation in which Rav Soloveitchik sounds pretty categorical in his position that married women must cover their hair. Rabbi Irving Greenberg, on the other hand, claims that during a private conversation with him in the 1950s Rav Soloveitchik said the opposite.


            That’s why I try being very careful. I’ll only put down what I actually heard from the Rav. I remember the conversation; it happened in the car. I remember that he was very emphatic: the hair has to be covered. He didn’t even want to go into details.


Rav Soloveitchik refers to Chabad and the Lubavitcher Rebbe several times in this book – sometimes positively, sometimes negatively.


            I would say that’s probably exactly right. Everyone has positive and negative traits, and the Rav called a spade a spade. For this topic I was careful only to put down what I have on tape [and not the material I have in my notes].


            Based on the time you spent with Rav Soloveitchik, would you say these


excerpts reflect his general attitude toward Chabad?


            Yes. It’s an accurate representation of what I heard.


Some readers who view Rav Soloveitchik as a moderate, 20th-century posek may be surprised to read that he took a fairly strict view on such halachic issues as birth control and women singing at the Shabbos table.


I was surprised too. When I brought up the issue of spacing children the Rav said there’s no such thing. He was very clear that things that people think are just fine are not just fine. On the other hand he says there are good reasons for birth control, but only in the right context.


As far as women singing, that question was personal, because I was just starting a seminary in Israel. I started mentioning different bases for heterim, but the Rav said: I know all the heterim, there’s no basis to allow this. The Rav had no reason to be stringent or lenient on me. He just felt in a straightforward fashion: This is the way I analyze the halacha, this is the way I see it.


In one conversation Rav Soloveitchik speaks to you about his grandfather Reb Chaim Soloveitchik’s opposition to the formation of Agudath Israel. Can you elaborate?


            That’s a dynamite issue. For that part, I was really nervous. My son and I listened to the tape over and over to make sure we got it right, especially when the Rav quotes the letter Reb Chaim sent to his father. We listened to that part probably 20 times. It’s fascinating. As for the details of Reb Chaim’s views I’d rather the book speak for itself. The Rav goes into detail.


Are you planning to publish more volumes of The Rav Thinking Aloud?


            Hopefully,im yirtzeh Hashem. I have a lot more material in the areas of halacha, minhagim, chumash, hashkafos. I can definitely see at least another two or three volumes. I think they will captivate the imagination.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles//2009/03/18/

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