Business Halacha: Shomer for My Neighbor


school-desksQuestion: A neighbor asked permission to leave a small desk in my driveway for the day. It suddenly began raining and the desk got ruined in the rain. Am I responsible for the desk?


A guardian only becomes responsible for an item if he accepts responsibility for it. This does not require any formal declaration, though, and it suffices to say, “Leave it with me,” or, “I’ll take care of it.” However, simply saying, “Put it down,” is not necessarily understood as accepting responsibility, unless circumstances clearly indicate so, e.g., if the owner is going far away (C.M. 291:2; SM”A 291:5).

Similarly, allowing a neighbor to place an item in your yard or driveway does not mean acceptance of responsibility for it, unless your language indicates so. Some say, however, that giving permission to leave something in your house is considered as accepting responsibility for it (291:3; Shach 291:8-9).

Therefore, if you allowed the neighbor to leave the desk in the driveway, but did not indicate that you accept responsibility for it, you are not responsible. [You should have made an effort to protect the desk from the rain, however, as a form of hashavas aveidah (259:9).]

Authored by Rabbi Meir Orlian

These articles are for learning purposes only and cannot be used for final halachic decision.

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  1. Simple common sense dictates that no mere mortal is responsible for the vagaries of the weather. It comes, literally, ?? ?????.

    With respect to Rabbi Meir Orlian, I am astonished that this simple – but all too obvious – point did not occur to him ???????.

  2. I think this one goes with “reasonable risk”.
    If you offer an item or some valued possesion to another person and think that it will be in safe keeping, you have reasonable risk on your visit that this will be the case. If it is damaged in some unforseen accident, I would think it is your loss and not the owners, such as in a fire, or wind or rain damage.
    OF course, if the owner had nefarious intent for your item such as defacing it or perhaps his children destroyed the item, I think that the owner of the home is responsible. Either way, you must realize that what is not in your capacity to delve into its protection is not going to always be the highest priority of the future.

  3. If you had accepted responsibility to look after the desk, you would have been obligated to pay if you could have brought the desk inside or covered it to protect it from the rain. Not doing so would be considered negligence, p’shia, for which even a shomer chinam is obligated. However, permission without acceptance of responsibility does not obligate you to pay. This was the point of the article.