Question:

A woman lent her sister her earrings, and the borrower left the earrings in her closet. Another sister was staying with the borrower, and asked to borrow her bracelet. It seems that the third sister, whilst borrowing the bracelet, inadvertently knocked the earrings onto the floor, and, unnoticed, they were swept away when the room was cleaned. Which of the sisters, if any, has to pay?

Answer:

The sister who borrowed the earrings has the status of a sho’el, and is responsible for anything that happens to them. Therefore she has a financial responsibility towards the sister who lent her the earrings. The third sister, who knocked the earrings on the floor inadvertently, need not pay anything. Although when it comes to damages, Odom mu’ad le’olom – a person is responsible for his actions even if he damaged inadvertently, nonetheless, in this case no actual damage was done, since by merely knocking them on the floor they are not actually damages, and only afterwards were they swept away by someone else. Therefore, we cannot oblige her for damages, and thus the sister who borrowed the earrings must pay for them to the one who lent them to her.

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