By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

By Yair Hoffman

In the state of New York, as well as in 29 other states, there is a law called “Dram Shop Liability.” According to NYS Statute 11-101, legal responsibility for drunk-driving accidents does not rest solely with the driver. Rather, bars and taverns may also be liable for injuries stemming from drunk-driving accidents caused by their customers.

“But wait!” says the bartender. “I didn’t choose to drink and drive! He exercised his own free will to do it! It was the customer—not me!”

“It doesn’t matter,” says the judge. “The law is that you are responsible even though it was the decision or action of another.”

At times, our actions, words, or activities may result in another party performing a chillul Hashem. It was our actions, however, our attitude, our words, or our activities that caused it. Words matter. And the Ultimate Judge, Hashem, will hold us responsible for it.

Three Proofs

There are numerous proofs to this concept in Chazal. We will briefly mention three.

• Zechariah was murdered in the Ezras Nashim of the Beis HaMikdash. The Midrash tells us that he demonstrated a very tiny, microscopically subtle degree of ga’avah. Some members of Klal Yisrael were incensed. They killed him. And the Midrash lays some of the blame for murder on Zechariah himself.

• Nadav and Avihu were very picky in choosing a spouse. As a result, they remained single. Many women in Klal Yisrael refused to marry anyone but them, so they remained agunos. The Midrash tells us that Nadav and Avihu were to blame for this situation, and Hashem took them, even though it was the women who chose not to marry anyone else. 

• The Chasam Sofer points out that the two commandments of “Not Cursing a Deaf Person” and “Do Not Cause Someone to Stumble” are both found in the same pasuk. All of the other surrounding commandments each have their own separate pasuk. The reason is because if you curse a deaf person, he won’t know that you cursed him. He also won’t know to forgive you. You will be punished. He would have caused your punishment, and he will also be punished because you were punished. You will also have violated “Lifnei Iver”—causing someone to stumble.

In many disputes, things tend to spiral out of control, and, at times, the other party will do something beyond the pale. At times, that something is a grave chillul Hashem. Make no mistake: we are culpable. We are responsible for the other party’s chillul Hashem because we brought him to it—even though it was his choice.

The Bet

There is a famous story about an employee who argued with his immediate supervisor that the supervisor had a huge black mole on his left shoulder and that he should go to a doctor and check it out. The supervisor responded emphatically that he did not have such a mole. The employee was so sure that he bet him $50 that he had the mole. The supervisor proved it to the employee by taking off his shirt and promptly collected the $50. The employee sheepishly admitted he was wrong and left the office in shame.

Twenty minutes later, the immediate supervisor casually mentioned the incident to his own supervisor. That supervisor became angry and said, “Oh no! I just bet that very employee $200 that you are such a stickler to our uniform code that he would never be able to convince you to take off your shirt here at work!”

The author of the Mesilas Yesharim describes the yetzer ha’ra as an “ish milchamah u’melumad b’armimus—a man of war, skilled and educated in cunningness.” He will fool us into thinking that we are absolutely doing the right thing—standing up for a principle or for the honor of X, Y, or Z. But, in reality, his entire plan was to get us to be party to a grave desecration of the Divine Name. Unfortunately, his tactics often work.

The Severity Of It All

The Chofetz Chaim in his Be’er Mayim Chayim (introduction note 6) cites the Yereim: Fear Hashem your G-d, give honor to His Name, and ensure that it not be desecrated.

The Gemara in Yoma 86a tells us that whomsoever has a chillul Hashem in his hand, neither teshuvah, Yom Kippur, or a lifetime of afflictions can mitigate it. All three in addition to his death are the only mitigation.

Rav Eliyahu Simcha Schustal, zt’l, father of Rav Dovid Schustal, shlita, one of the four roshei yeshiva of BMG, provides an explanation as to why chillul Hashem has such severe consequences. In a new sefer titled “Chemed Simcha,” encompassing the mussar lectures that he gave in his yeshiva published by his children, Rav Eliyahu Simcha explains it (p. 131) based upon Pirkei Avos 6:11. Whatever Hashem created in this world was only created for Kavod Shamayim. One who does the opposite and causes chillul Hashem is actively destroying and undermining the very purpose of Creation.

Rav Schustal further quotes Rav Yeruchem Levovitz (Daas Chochma U’Mussar Vol. III Maamar 286) that the sheva mitzvos bnei Noach are actually a minimum standard of behavior. By the same token, violating chillul Hashem is punished instantly with no mitigation at all because kiddush Hashem to Klal Yisrael is also a minimal standard of behavior. That is why his punishment as mentioned in the Gemara in Yoma is so severe.

Conclusion

NYS Statute 11-101, Dram Shop Liability, applies to us. We are no different than the bartender. And whenever an issue can end up going so public that a massive chillul Hashem ensues, all parties involved will be held responsible, even though “we didn’t do it, it was the other party.” The lesson is that cooler heads must always prevail, and we must be ever-vigilant to avoid a desecration of the Divine Name. 

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com.

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1 COMMENT

  1. B”H There’s something sordid, even pathetic in this week’s rambling, disjointed, and always verbose; assaulting the king’s and peasant’s English, all an attempt to cover his exposed posterior evoking reeking ridicule. Imagine, a putative publisher-editor making up the news from whole cloth, with stopovers to be fed the crumbs of right-wing conspiracy theories woven by the likes of the discredited Glen Beck (remember him, of board-drawing of villains infamy), the lunatic Constitutional ignoramus Mark Levi, along with the usual promoters feeding his like-minded Trumpists in Newsmax, OAN, and others as nauseam! But exposing such lack of professionalism and active engagement in Hillel HaShem —- for Larry has failed, even after 100 days into a new, better President’s tenure, to state the facts: that the 2020 election was the cleanest, most-participatory, and justly decided! No doubt, he fears Trump’s wrath, and that of his many acolytes who, betraying Jewish norms and practice of moderation, continue to toot this malignant leader’s horn! We must continue to commend the spiritual and lay leadership of Woodmere’s Young Israel, and Lawrence’s Congregation Beth Sholom for the slam-dunk in public demonstration of sanity and decency —- the guideposts by which Jews have always lived! Come back, little Sheba (Larry Gordon) to the fold; you have the twin responsibilities to make your departed parents proud, even as you break the mold you weekly underlay with poison as your living son Yonatan imbibes waiting in the wings to succeed you. It’s not too to repent, on Lag B’Omer and ahead of Yom Kippur, and be redeemed! With fraternal affection, Ashet🙏😩🔯😢🇺🇸🤣

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