Monday, May 28, 2007

schoolyard halacha

My son had a practical halachic question that stems undoubtably from his learning (by himself) mishnayos baba kamma. His class was playing kickball at recess and as he kicked the ball, it popped. As he put it, the ball was "meisa machmas melacha" (after all, he argued, the ball was quite dead). Is he chayav to pay the school for a new ball? I was about to tell him a katan is always patur, but that doesn't fly because he is over bar mitzvah now!

My son reasoned that he was a shoel, as the class had borrowed the ball for use at recess, and a shoel is chayav even in a case of ones. Sounds reasonable, but not so easy on his pocketbook. I helped him out a bit and suggested some other possibilities: 1) since he (or we) pay tuition for use of the school's property and materials, he might actually be a socheir, not a shoel; 2) since his rebbe was supposesdly supervising the class, the case may be one of ba'alav imo; 3) there is an implicitly mechila on the part of the school for these things otherwise they would be billing students for every broken piece of chalk, spilled milk at lunch, and other little calamities that are overlooked as par for the course of a school day (this is admittedly the weakest argument).

I told him to ask his principal, as I think the discussion he could have about applying dinei nezikin would be a real learning experience (not too many of those, unfortunately, in the school day). Anyone have any other sevaros on this one?


  1. Hmm... my impression was that meisa machmas melacha was even more kal than stam ones, but it's been a while since I've seen the sugya inside, so I could be mistaken.

  2. Anonymous2:31 AM

    1) Meisa Machamas Melacha is more Kal, and even a Shoel is Pattur. The only question is if he kicked it into something else (like a spoke or something) which made it pop, or it popped from the kick itself?

    2) I think you are correct on being a Socheir anyhow.

    3) The Rebbe supervising has to do with B'alav Immo? That's a Din in whether the owner of the ball was in the employ of the Sho'el. The physical presence of the Ba'alim is irrelevant.

  3. Yes, machmas melacha is more kal.

    I assumed by ba'alav imo that we who pay tuition on our son's behalf employ the rebbe, and he as representitve of the school is the owner of the borrowed ball.

  4. Bob Miller9:46 AM

    This looks like normal wear and tear that a school would budget for.

  5. I assumed by ba'alav imo that we who pay tuition on our son's behalf employ the rebbe, and he as representitve of the school is the owner of the borrowed ball.

    Including the rebbe seems to be overcomplicating things, as you aren't hiring him directly, you're hiring the school. The case seems to reduce to A hires B, B subcontracts the job to C, and A borrows from B - and therefore the subcontracting doesn't have an effect. Your analysis seems to make sense, though, LAnD.

  6. i think your son and bob have essentially the same sevara. 'normal wear and tear' = meis machmas melacha. if he was playing with the ball in the normal, accepted way (i.e., it wasn't a basketball that he kicked) then it is indeed meis machmas melacha.