By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Mishpatim, the topic regarding laws of paying for damages caused to others is discussed at length.
Is there a specific issur to cause damage to others; or is there an obligation to pay for damages that you cause, but there is no issur?
The Rambam in hilchos Teshuva, Perek Alef, halacha alef writes that if one causes damage to his friend, he is not forgiven even after he paid for the damages until he is misvadeh and does teshuvah. We see from this Rambam that not only does one have the responsibility to pay for damages, one is actually oveir an issur when causing damage. It is also brought down in Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, siman shin ayin ches that just like it is forbidden to steal from a friend; so too there is a prohibition not to cause damage to someone else. The Gemara in Bava Kama, daf nun alef says that one may not make someone else a shaliach to dig a pit because there is a rule that “ein shaliach lidvar aveirah.” We learn that it is an issur to cause damage.
Is this prohibition an issur de’Oraysa or de’Rabbanan? If it is a de’Oraysa, what exactly is the issur?
There are four opinions regarding the above question. The first opinion I will mention here is that of the Mabit brought in the Kehilas Yaakov Bava Kama, siman alef. He states that causing damage is only an issur Mide’Rabbonon. However, most poskim say that it is an issur De’Oraysa as we find in Rashi in Gittin, daf nun gimmel, amud alef. In addition, the issur is brought down in the Remah in Bava Basra, siman kuf zayin that the prohibition is derived from the issur of “Lifnei iveir lo siten michshol.”
The second opinion is that the issur is derived from the halacha of hashavas aveida; if one has to return someone else’s lost money then one certainly cannot make someone else lose money. This is based on the Reshash in Kesubos, daf yud ches.
The third opinion is in Rabbeinu Yona in Meseches Avos that it is an issur of Lo Sigzol.
The fourth opinion is from the Orach Mishpat in Choshen Mishpat, siman chof vov. It clearly explains there that the prohibition of causing damage is derived from the mitzvah of Ve’ahavta lere’acha kamocha.
Whatever the issur is, one must be careful not to cause damage to another; whether the damage is monetary or physical. In this zechus, let us hope it will bring the ultimate peace and geula sheleima.