Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Good Questions Deserve Good Answers

My "Erev Yom Kippur" post drew one comment. It was from a poster who calls himself "CynicalFrumAmericanInTheUK". I am happy he didn't call himself "CynicalFrumAmericanInJerusalem" - how many more of us do we need?

In any event he posed 2 very pertinent questions on my post which seems to indicate that some readers could use some assistance in internalizing the concept. So let's deal with his 2 questions:

CynicalFrumAmericanInTheUK said...

Question #1: Where's the line for peshiya of this sort?
If, for example, someone opens up a chareidi cheder in a very hard-core chiloni neighborhood, where it's clear that the neighbors are likely to respond in not such a nice way, are the chereidim involved posh'im?

If you really believe in the logic, you have to apply it consistently, not just in the direction you believe in.

Answer #1:

Let me give another example. A fireman goes into a burning building to rescue people trapped inside even though the odds are poor. The building combusts and the fireman perishes with the other doomed souls.

The question is: would this be considered being negligent and thus make the fireman accountable for his demise? And the obvious answer is: don't be ridiculous. Negligence means - as I wrote in the post, by the way - taking unnecessary risks or risks that have no noble purpose. I.e., when there is no reason to expose oneself to danger and there is nothing to be gained by it (save some cheap thrills).

Conversely, when people expose themselves to risks that are necessary in order to accomplish a more rewarding end, it is difficult to call this being reckless or negligent. Our fireman was moser nefesh to try to save people. He is a hero.

Thus, if someone opens up a chareidi cheder in a very hard-core chiloni neighborhood, where it's clear that the neighbors are likely to respond in not such a nice way, my assumption is that they are opening the cheder for what is in their estimation (and mine as well) a noble aim of helping to bring lost Jewish children back to their heritage. They are trapped in a spitually burning building. Trying to save them may mean being exposed to dangers and be risky, but it is a known calculated risk. I cannot call this negligence.

But, as I wrote in my post, if a biker or an attactive young lady go about lacking essential pieces of protective gear, or imbibe in intoxicating beverages, and thus invite danger for no noble purpose, I would say this is reckless and negligent.

If you feel there is something inconsistent about this, please spell it out for me.

QUESTION #2: In Nezikin, doesn't the guilt of a poshea in fact reduce the culpability of the other guilty people involved? In other words, by your analogy, wouldn't the murderer in fact be less guilty than he would be otherwise?

Answer #2:

In Nezikin we distinguish between poshea (negligent) and meizid (deliberate). When somebody acts deliberately, nothing reduces his culpability. This is a typical murder or theft. Still, if the victim did not take logical precautions that may have prevented the occurrence, he also deserves a measure of responsibilty. Like I wrote, there is enough to go around. However, there are events of injury or damage where neither party was deliberate; for example, a typical car accident where A inflicts damage upon B. In such a case, the negligent actions of the "victim" (B) may indeed lessen the degree of culpability of the one who inflicted the damage (A). I believe that insurance companies have formulas to calculate these things.

If you have any other "CynicalFrumAmericanInTheUK" questions, you know where to find me.

Piska tova,


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