By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
In Shemos, Perek chof alef, posuk chof alef, the Torah tells us the law of retaliation; the principle that a person who injured another person is to be penalized to a similar degree inflicting punishment such as an eye for an eye and a burn for a burn.
The Mishna in Bava Kama, daf chof vov, amud alef says that a person is responsible for his actions under all circumstances; whether he caused damage intentionally or accidentally and whether he caused damage while he is awake or asleep. The Gemara says that the source for this is the fact that the Torah first says that when one wounds his friend, he gets the same wound as a punishment. Subsequently, the Torah says all different scenarios; an eye for an eye, a wound for a wound, a burn for a burn etc. Having the Torah repeat this fact teaches us that one is responsible for any damages that one perpetrates whether he does so knowingly or unknowingly.
The Gemara in Bava Kama, daf lamed, amud alef says that Reb Yehuda says one who wants to be a chassid should learn and be mekayem the halachos of Nezikin, “damages.” Why would someone be called a “chassid” if he does not damage his friend? Isn’t that basic halacha?
The Sefer Yismach Yisrael, likutim daf tzadik daled explains that regarding Nezikin it is much more difficult not be oveir since a person is responsible even if the act is unintentional or done when one is asleep. In other areas one is only chayev if he actually has in mind to do the issur, but is not chayev if the act was done without thinking. Similarly, in a case of someone eating something that is assur, the person has to actually derive benefit from eating that food. The Gemara is teaching us that if one keeps all of Torah the way he has to watch himself not to be oveir on Nezikin, he would be a chassid. One who watches himself not to be oveir any issureven if perpetrated during his sleep is called a chassid.
With this point we can understand a Gemara in Brachos, daf chof, amud alef. The Gemara says that the reason the previous generations had miracles happen to them and later generations did not can’t be because they were more learned because they only knew Seder Nezikin and the later generations knew all six volumes of the Mishna. The reason is that the previous generations were moser nefesh, the later generations were not. The question arises; what does it mean that the previous generations only knew Nezikin? What happened with the other basic halachos of Moed etc? We can answer with the above point of the Yismach Yisroel that of course they knew all volumes of mishnayos; however, they practiced it the same way as Nezikin, training themselves to do it even in their sleep. This was their great mesiras nefesh. That is why they merited that miracles would happen to them such as when the rov would take off one shoe and the rains would come immediately.
May we be zocheh to be moser nefesh for the Torah like the previous generations.