Ethics

For the week ending 11 November 2006 / 20 Heshvan 5767

The Swallowed Lenses

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: The son of my neighbor who is studying in a yeshiva returned to his darkened dormitory room late at night. To quench his thirst he poured some water into a glass he found on the table and drank its contents. Only in the morning did he realize that the funny taste of his drink was the result of it being the solution in which his roommate had placed his contact lenses. He is now concerned as to whether he has to pay for the lenses he accidentally swallowed. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: A similar question was posed to the generation’s leading halachic authority, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv of Jerusalem. He gave several reasons for not holding the lens swallower responsible for payment despite the fact that a person is responsible for any damage he causes, even if he did so unintentionally. We quote two of them:

  1. There was no way that he could have presumed that there were lenses in the glass so that there is no liability for damage done.
  2. The owner of the lenses brought the damage upon himself by placing such an expensive item in a glass placed in a room he shared with others.

In conclusion, you can relieve the conscience of your neighbor’s son but impress upon him the need to “think before you drink”.

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