One of the things which is central to all interpersonal relations between
Jews, is the fundamental prohibition against any Jew causing any harm,
damage, disturbance or pain to another. The gemora (Shabos 31a) says that the
section of shas on damages is characterized by the word "salvations." If we
damage each other, we cause G-d to bring destruction to us. If we do not
damage each other (or at least correct it if we ever do), G-d saves us from
harm and trouble.
The Mishna in Bava Kama specifically states that each Jew is NOT ONLY
obligated to not damage another; the Mishna also specifies that the
RESPONSIBILITY FOR GUARDING AGAINST DAMAGING IS ON EACH PERSON NOT TO DAMAGE
ANOTHER and that MEN AND WOMEN ARE EQUAL in both the obligation to guard
against damaging another as well as equal in their rights if ever damaged.
I am herein going to provide a sampling of Torah rules (ANTHOLOGIZED
PRIMARILY FROM CHOSHEN MISHPOT AND SEDER NEZIKIN) to hopefully improve
awareness, sensitivity and behavior; so that Jews do only good to each other
and never bad; and so that G-d does to us likewise. For practical, specific
Torah law questions, please consult a respected rov.
A central rule of damages is "adom muad le'olam (a Jew is always
responsible for harming another in any way; e.g. bodily injury, feelings,
reputation, property, livelihood, etc.)." This includes causing harm with
your property, such as letting your animal loose so that it eats or tramples
on the property of another or leaving something somewhere so that it causes
another to trip and fall. There are certain cases when you can even be
responsible for damaging while you are asleep. If you hurt someone else or
break property while falling down, you may even be responsible for damages.
You may not wake someone from sleep unless the person would want the
thing you are waking him for more than the sleep. You may not waste a
person's time, e.g. coming late for an appointment, double parking or
blocking a driveway, keeping someone waiting unjustifiably or not returning a
book that other people may use to its shelf. Wasting even a moment of
someone's time is considered a theft you can never repay, which is a very
You may not dig near your land's boundary because your neighbor's land
may collapse or underground water may cause water damage to your neighbor's
property. If you ever sell land, you must offer it first to your neighbor
because expanding his existing property is more value-adding than selling
land to another person without connected land. You may not set a fire where
heat can damage a neighbor or if an expectable wind could spread the fire to
another's property and cause damage or danger. You can't make noise, or do
business in your home that brings the public, so as to disturb neighbors. You
can't put up a wall that blocks a neighbor's view nor a window that lets you
see into the window of your neighbor so as to violate privacy.
Deception and lying are prohibited. Flattery is considered deception
since you prevent your victim from knowing what he really is or how you truly
feel about him. Lying and flattering for the sake of peace can sometimes be
allowed (to lack peace is a MAJOR damage). A woman who violates modesty laws
is considered as if she is morally harming men.
In business, you may not cheat, misrepresent product or its quality, use
faulty weights and measures, overcharge above market value (for certain
products), renege on a price commitment or a transaction, or violate time
obligations (to pay, to complete work, etc). When you are paid for your time,
you may not use that time for personal purposes (because this is stealing).
You may not harm people passively e.g. not returning lost property,
withholding or delaying help that another truly needs, not keeping your word.
Torah standards are so high that if someone gives you a friendly greeting and
you do not return at least as nice a greeting, it is considered as if you
stole his greeting.
You are prohibited from shaming, defaming, hurting feelings, using
disparaging nick-names (even if the victim agrees), "using" or imposing upon
people, slandering, aggravating, making yourself big by diminishing another,
being angry, disrespectful or arrogant. Kindness and charity are so
meritorious that they extend a person's life span. In shul, you may not say
Shmoneh Esray audibly nor walk within six feet in front of another praying
Shmoneh Esray, as these disturb the other's concentration. Hashem overlooks
wrongs done to Him by people who overlook wrongs done to him by other people.
We must get along sweetly with and be civil to others. We are as pleasing and
non-bothering to Hashem as we are pleasing and non-bothering to people.
There is sensitivity in halacha to women. To protect a woman's dignity,
if a man and woman come to a door to beg at the same time and you can only
can give one, give to the woman; and if a man and woman come to bais din for
a case at the same time, the dayan is to take the case of the woman first. If
a man and woman are captured by kidnappers, we ransom the woman first to
protect her from personal vulnerability. If a husband and wife hurt each
other's feelings, G-d punishes the husband more rapidly and brutally for
hurting his wife. Making a wife an aguna or abusing her can brutalize her
entire life; so if hurting a wife in one individual incident evokes G-d's
strong response against a husband, how much more so when he damages her life
profoundly and steadily(!), rachmona litzlon.
Hashem told Moshe to speak parshas Kedoshim ("Be Holy") to the entire
assembled Jewish nation. The Chasam Sofer points out that this teaches us
that if one cannot live with people in a holy fashion (or he can be holy only
if alone), he is not holy. It is when we can live with others in a holy
fashion that a Jew proves he is holy. May it be the Alm-ghty's will that we
keep learning and working on ourselves so that we all are holy and please Him
with how well we treat each other.