Shabbat Parashat Va'eira 5764
Distancing Damages - Part II - G’rama B’nezikin (I)
In several areas of halacha, there is an exemption from full responsibility in the case of g’rama. G’rama is the causing of an outcome (usually detrimental) in an indirect manner. By melacha on Shabbat, the lack of sufficient connection between the one who does the causing and the outcome lowers the level of such a form of chillul Shabbat to a minimum. G’rama on Shabbat is permitted in cases of great need, such as a significant loss of money. So too, if one damages someone else in a manner of g’rama, he is exempt from payment.
One example in Shas of g’rama that is exempt from payment is of one who beats flax and causes some of its fibers to fly up in the air. In the case that a wind blew the fibers to where they cause damage to others he is exempt (Bava Kama 60a). Another case is when one places poison in a place which is accessible to his friend’s animal and they die as a result (ibid. 56a).
There is another category of indirect damage that is very similar in content and in name. In this category, called garmi, there is a machloket between tana’im whether or not one is liable for damages payments. We accept the opinion of R. Meir that we do obligate the one who causes through garmi (Bava Kama 100a). One example that is given is of one who decides not to uproot vegetation in a case where it forbids his neighbor’s plants through the laws of kilayim (cross breeding).
One of the most complicated questions in halacha is to figure out which damages fall under the category of g’rama and which are considered garmi. The Ramban dedicated a large section of one of his sefarim to the topic, but the matter still remains largely a mystery. For this reason, Tosafot (Bava Batra 22b) says that the distinction between g’rama and garmi is a rabbinic one based on practical considerations.
One must realize that even if one is exempt from payment for g’rama, it does not mean that he is allowed to leave the situation which can cause damage to his friend. This will be our topic in the coming week.
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