By Rabbi Yehoshua Grunwald
This article seeks to clarify the Halachos concerning helping one whose car is stuck in the snow or does not operate due to a mechanical failure. If I am asked for help what are my obligations according to Halacha?
Is helping someone with his disabled car, part of the Mitzva of Perikah (unloading an animal’s burden) and Te’inah (loading the burden onto the animal) or of general chesed?
Perhaps we would say that the Mitzvos of Perikah and Te’inah only apply to animals and not to vehicles. We can prove that this is not true since theRishonim have raised the question that perhaps Perikah and Te’inah are applicable to humans as well. This clearly indicates that these Mitzvos are not relegated only to animals. In fact, many poskim quote the Aruch HaShulchan in CM Siman 272 who states that Perikah and Te’inah apply to helping someone whose carriage has lost a wheel. From this Aruch HaShulchan the poskim deduce that the same holds true for automobiles as well.
Other poskim disagree and are of the opinion that the Mitzvos of Perikah and Te’inah do not apply to cars. The sefer Orach Meishorim says that there really isn’t much of a difference because even if those Mitzvos don’t apply, the person still has to give assistance because of the Mitzva of doingchesed. Perhaps we can say that there would be differences whether one is obligated because of Perikah and Te’inah or because of general chesed.
One possible difference would be in terms of having the right kavana (the correct thought process of why I am doing this Mitzva). The Chofetz Chaim tells us concerning the Mitzva of paying the employees on time that the employer should have that specific kavana in mind i.e. that he is performing the Mitzva of B’yomo tetain schoro. Perhaps, here as well I must have in mind either that I am doing the Mitzva to fulfill chesed or to fulfill Perikah andTe’inah.
Is helping with a disabled or snowbound car a fulfillment of Perikah or Te’inah?
There are differences between the Mitzva of Perikah or the Mitzva of Te’inah. Perikah must be done without payment. Te’inah is done even for payment. Assuming that one fulfills Perikah and Te’inah and not general chesed when he helps another with a disabled vehicle which exact Mitzvah is it? Is it Perikah or is it Te’inah? The Achronim tell us that the obligation to do Perikah is only when the animal is having tzar, pain. Clearly this does not apply to an automobile. It is clear that in the case of an auto one is fulfilling Te’inah and thus he is obligated to help the owner only if the owner is ready to pay him. This would apply even if at present the helper is not gainfully employed and is not losing any wages by helping the owner.
Is one obligated to help the owner when he is stranded on the road or even close to his home?
We do not find anywhere that this Mitzvah is only along the way. However, we do find that the Sema states that according to the Rambam the reason for this Mitzvah is because of the tzar of the Jew. Thus each situation must be judged as to whether the owner is having tzar. There would certainly be a difference, for example, if one needs to help a fellow Jew who is freezing in his unheated car along the highway versus the person whose second car is snowbound in front of him on the street as he waits in his warm house.
Rav Chaim HaLevi on Maseches BM and the Shu”t Pe’as Sodcha tell us, however, that the reason for the Mitzva is because of danger on the roads. According to this reason the Mitzva would only apply to a stranded car on or along a highway.
BAIS HAVAAD HALACHA CENTER