SECRETS of the FOOD INDUSTRY

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Dear Jido,

Friends of ours invited me and my family to their home for the weekend. They do not have children of their own, but we have two very young children, aged one and two. When we got there, I "childproofed” the areas my kids would be playing in, moving all the expensive and fragile items to places that would be out of reach for our children. Our friends, however, insisted on putting everything back to their original places.

Of course, an expensive vase was smashed. Although my friends were gracious, I know they were upset. Though I believe I did my best in policing the children, I still feel as though I should offer to pay for the broken vase. My husband says to let it go, since they did not allow us to keep the vase out of harm’s way. What do you think is the proper thing to do?

Signed,

Childproof

Dear Childproof,

You did what common sense said should be done – you attempted to prevent any mishaps. Now you’re thinking about offering to compensate your friends for the loss.  In fact, you don’t have to.

Any time aperson sees that his friend’s property is likely to get damaged, he must take the initiative to protect it – which you did. However, once your hosts acknowledged your actions and returned the items to “harm’s way”, they took ultimate responsibility for them.

Even though, a person is usually responsible for his own actions as well as the actions of his possessions (whether it’s his kids, his dog, or his car), even for accidental damage, since the owners insisted that their possessions be left in an area where they couldbe damaged, you are not even required to offer to pay
(see Hoshen Mishpat 378:1-3).

Of course, the polite thing would be to offer to pay but it is not necessary in this case. To prevent any awkward feelings that they or you might have regarding this incident, you can always send them flowers or a challah for Shabbat and thank them for their hospitality while expressing regret for the damage.

Jido