For the week ending 9 June 2007 / 23 Sivan 5767

Responsibility for Animals

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: I own an animal that sometimes goes out into a public area. Recently I was warned that I have a responsibility for any damage to others that my animal causes. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: We can gain a proper perspective on your concern from a story about the Chafetz Chaim.

While studying Torah away from his Radin home in nearby Vashilishok he was anxious to get a message to his wife back home. He asked a local wagon driver headed for a market day in Radin to deliver a letter to his wife and to do so immediately upon arrival because it contained a very important message. Curiosity about what important business secrets might be in a letter given with such instructions overcame the driver and he opened the letter. This is what he read:

"Since we own a cow and are responsible for its actions, please be careful not to let the cow out into the streets on market day. Many wagons of non-Jews pass through on that day and our cow may grab a bit of straw from one of them. Such an act by our cow could turn us into thieves."

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