Shared Spirit: Repairs and Recompense
Shared Spirit

Shared Spirit: Repairs and Recompense

Who’s responsible for a broken dining room table with shaky legs?

Rachel Stein

Toco Hills resident Rachel Stein writes about spirituality and, working with readers, tries to help community members deal with dilemmas.

Recap: Our family went to a summer program in Lakewood, N.J., where we stayed as guests in the Silverstein family’s apartment, donated for the benefit of the program. On our first day there, one of our children accidentally broke the glass dining room table. When I called to tell the Silversteins of the mishap, they apologetically informed me that the table had been shaky, and they had meant to warn us.

My question: Who’s responsible?

Bite the Bullet

I don’t really see the question: You broke it; you pay for it. At the very least, compromise and pay half.

— Zhenia Greszces

Call Your Rabbi

I would seek the advice of a rabbi. Our Torah is replete with laws referencing damages and covers virtually every situation. So use our rich heritage, which guides us through such murky situations.

— Debbie Black

Be a Mensch

Although technically the damage might not have been your fault, the Silversteins are without a dining room table. My advice is to follow the way of peace and pay either the entire expense or at least half of it.

“Our ways are ways of pleasantness, and all of its paths are peace” (Shabbat morning liturgy).

— David Markowitz

In Their Shoes

One time I was going out of town for a few weeks, and a friend asked to borrow my car while I was gone. I agreed and continued preparing for my vacation. I left feeling virtuous for helping a friend and secure that my car was in good hands.

When I got home, a light on the dashboard indicated a problem, and I heard a concerning noise. My heart hammered as I drove to the mechanic.

“Had you brought the car to me the moment the light went on,” he said, “the problem could have been fixed easily and would have been a minor expense. But since you waited, the total will be $400.”

Anger roiled within me. What had my friend done to me? I had been generous and lent her my car, and she repaid the favor by causing me a huge loss.

Taking some deep breaths, I picked up the phone and dialed her number.

“Amy,” I began after we exchanged pleasantries, “did you notice the light on the dashboard of my car?”

“Yes,” she replied. “It came on the minute I started using the car, so I figured you had simply forgotten to tell me about it. It drove so smoothly, so I figured it was just one of those things — you know how every car has its cricks. I did mean to ask you about it, but things were so hectic, and I kept forgetting. It was such a huge help to have an extra vehicle while my out-of-town kids were visiting. I really appreciate your help.”

I took a deep breath.

“Amy, that light was not just one of those things. It cost me $400 for the repair. But the mechanic told me that if it had been brought in right away, it would have been $50.”

“I am terribly sorry,” she said. “I wish I had known.”

I waited for her to offer me compensation, but it wasn’t forthcoming.

“So how should we settle this?” I prodded.

We agreed to ask our rabbi for his advice and to abide by his suggestion.

“Really, you’re right,” Rabbi B assured me, and my blood pressure de-escalated a notch. “But Amy doesn’t have extra money. She’s a single mother who is constantly struggling to make ends meet. So the best thing to do would be not to make any demands on her.”

My temper started to flare. Who said I have an extra $400? I’m struggling too!

Before I could reply, the rabbi continued. “But I have a special fund, and I’m happy to reimburse you for the expense. Just please do me a favor. Don’t tell Amy about this, OK? It can be our secret. Just tell her I said it’s not her fault and leave it at that.”

That is how my situation was resolved. But without my rabbi’s incredible compassion, I would have remained furious with Amy. And now I think twice before lending out my car.

So, my friend, put yourself in the Silversteins’ shoes and act toward them as you would want others to act toward you. If someone were to damage your property, how would you like the issue resolved?

— Shira Cooper

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