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The Kurzes were sitting around the Shabbos table. “Do you have a review sheet of what you learned in school this week?” Mrs. Kurz asked her 9-year-old son, Shlomo.

“Yes,” replied Shlomo. He went to his room and brought back the review sheet.


“What parasha are you learning?” asked Mr. Kurz.

“We’re in the middle of Mishpatim,” replied Shlomo. He gave the review sheet to his father.

“I see you learned about the mitzvah of perika,” Mr. Kurz said. “Can you tell me what that mitzvah is?”

“If you see someone’s donkey carrying a heavy load, and it falls and cannot get up,” answered Shlomo, “you can’t just walk by and leave the person in trouble; you have to help him!”

“Excellent!” exclaimed Mr. Kurz. “I see that you learned well!”

“But people don’t carry loads on donkeys anymore,” commented their daughter, Shira.

“There are still horses and buggies,” argued 12-year-old David. “What happens if something happens to the buggy and the horse is stuck and can’t pull it?”

“Very few people use horse and buggies,” insisted Shira. “Almost everybody uses cars, nowadays. So how is this mitzvah relevant?”

“Well, sometimes you’re driving along,” said Mr. Kurz, “and you see someone stuck on the side of the road.”

“I once got a flat tire,” added Mrs. Kurz. “Someone was nice enough to stop and help me change the tire. Perhaps that could be a modern application of the mitzvah.”

“If so, every time I pass a stopped car on the highway I would have to stop,” contemplated Mr. Kurz.

At shul, Mr. Kurz asked Rabbi Dayan:

“Am I required to stop and assist?”

“If we see the animal of a fellow Jew failing under his load,” replied Rabbi Dayan, “the Torah (Shemos 23:5; Devarim 22:4) requires us to assist him unload the animal (perika) and then help him reload the animal (te’ina) (C.M. 272:1).

“Some explain this mitzvah as rooted in the need to spare the animal suffering; others explain it as rooted in the need to help a fellow Jew in distress. Presumably, it depends on the dispute (B.M. 32a; Shabbos 128b) whether the prohibition of tza’ar ba’alei Chayim – causing an animal suffering – is d’Oraysa or not (Gra 271:1).

Achronim extend the mitzvah from an animal carrying a load to an animal pulling a load, even if the problem is with the wagon or its wheel so that the horse is not under the load (Aruch HaShulchan C.M. 272:8).

“Contemporary poskim address the question of whether these mitzvos apply to a car, in which there is no animal, just the fellow Jew in distress. Of course, offering help is included in the general mitzvah of chesed, which is an aspect of the mitzvah of v’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha (Rambam, Hil. Avel 14:1).

“Some poskim maintain that according to the rationale that focuses on the distress and potential danger to the Jewish owner, there is no difference between an animal failing under a load and a car with mechanical difficulties, so that perika and te’ina require someone who can assist mechanically to do so (Yechaveh Da’as 5:64/65).

“Others maintain that even if perika and te’ina is extended to an animal pulling a wagon, it cannot be extrapolated to include a car; this reverts to the general mitzvah of gemilus chasadim, which is much more flexible.

“On the practical level,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “one can consider further that often passersby cannot help with mechanical failure; most drivers have roadside assistance included in their insurance; there are volunteer organizations that specialize in roadside assistance; that for te’ina (which seems more relevant to a car), the helper is entitled to full pay for his services; and that stopping in the shoulder on a highway can be potentially dangerous (C.M. 372:6).”

Verdict: Some poskim apply perika and te’ina to a car that has mechanical difficulties, and there is certainly a mitzvah of gemilus chesed, when possible, to assist without causing potential danger.

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Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to [email protected]. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail [email protected].