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Q&A from the Bais HaVaad Halacha Hotline

Crash Course

Harav Chaim Weg

October 15, 2020

Q:  On Rosh Hashanah, I borrowed a sefer on hilchos tekias shofar and a shofar to blow in shul, and I left them on the bimah during Musaf. The chandelier above the bimah crashed down and shattered. Baruch Hashem, no one was hurt, but the shofar and sefer were ruined. Must I reimburse the owner?

A:  At first glance, this is a simple case of oness (an accident) in a borrowed item, for which a sho’el (borrower) is liable because kol hana’ah shelo—he receives all the benefit from the item, at no cost.

But our case is not so simple. The Gemara in Bava Metzia 96a (according to Rashi and the Rosh) teaches that a sho’el may only be liable for oness where he derives benefit from the actual borrowed item. For example, if he borrows an expensive item only to place it in his breakfront to appear wealthy, and he doesn’t have permission to use the item, he would not be required to pay for onsim.

The Machanei Ephraim (Nedarim 24) says that since mitzvos lav leihanos nitnu (the mitzvos were not given to derive benefit therefrom), borrowing a mitzvah item is like borrowing an item from which one cannot derive benefit, and therefore the borrower would not be liable for onsim. This view is cited by R’ Akiva Eiger (340), and it is also the view of the Ketzos (72).

The Machanei Ephraim continues that all agree that one is liable for onsim in a borrowed sefer. Some explain that the reason sefarim are different from other mitzvah items is that sefarim are generally rented out for profit, which is an actual benefit (Machanei Ephraim ibid., Shach Y.D. 221). (Because today sefarim are not generally rented, this argument no longer applies.) Others explain that sefarim are different because one is in fact supposed to derive benefit from the mitzvah of talmud Torah (Taz Y.D. 221, Nesivos 72).

Some poskim reject the entire premise that deriving hana’ah is a prerequisite for liability for onsim (Rambam, Imrei Yosher, Ohr Sameiach).

In conclusion, if you have not yet paid for the shofar, you would not be required to do so, but it would be proper to pay in part for the sefer.

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