For the purpose of this article, we will refer to a person who inflicts bodily harm upon his/her fellow as an “aggressor”, irrespective of his/her intent.
It is forbidden to hit/harm/raise a hand to smite another Jew [Choshen Mishpat 420: 1].
The Five Payments
The Torah requires an aggressor to pay up to five categories of reparations to the victim of his/her aggression when applicable.
The five categories include
1) irreparable damage | נזק
2) pain | צער
3) medical expenses | ריפוי
4) loss of employment | שבת
5) embarrassment/emotional anguish | בשת .
Although contemporary Batei Din have limited authority as to which categories of reparations they can compel the aggressor to pay, all applicable categories remain the aggressor’s moral obligation to pay irrespective of whether or not the Batei Din can force him/her to do so [Choshen Mishpat 1, Choshen Mishpat 420: 44]. Thus, it is prudent for us to familiarize ourselves with the appropriate guidelines of each category while appreciating that the guidelines for these five categories differ greatly.
- The broadest category is payment for irreparable damage | נזק.
A human being is almost always liable for paying for the damages resulting from his/her actions. As a being of higher intellect, with a little more care, he/she could have avoided damaging a second party. In Tannaic vernacular we call this phenomenon .אדם מועד לעולם
Thus, an aggressor must pay for irreparable damage even if the incident was an accident, an אונס . Though, most Rishonim do absolve the aggressor if the incident was a complete accident – completely out of the aggressor’s control אונס גמור [Rema 421: 4].
- The middle category includes pain | צער, medical expenses |ריפוי, and loss of employment | שבת
The Torah introduces the categories of payment for b) pain c) medical expenses d) loss of employment when people are fighting וכי יריבון אנשים [Shemos 21: 18] - insinuating that either the aggressor intended to harm the victim even if the ultimate result was unexpected or else the aggressor acted with gross irresponsibility.
An accidental incident however, where there was no intent to harm would not require the aggressor to pay for b) pain c) medical expenses 4) loss of employment, albeit required to pay for irreparable damage.
III. The most limited category of payment is embarrassment/emotional anguish | בשת .
Payments for embarrassment are only required when the aggressor intended on maliciously harming the victim. Moreover, if the aggressor intended on harming an individual who would suffer a lower degree of embarrassment from the blow, but instead harmed one who suffered a greater degree of embarrassment, the aggressor is only required to pay the lower figure of embarrassment payments –( of which he/she intended to harm) - to the victim [Choshen Mishpat 420: 36, 421: 1, 2, 14 based upon Devarim 25: 11].
While the Torah simply discusses payments for embarrassment and emotional pain in cases of physical abuse [Choshen Mishpat 420: 39], Beis Din maintains the vested authority and will compel an aggressor to pay for emotional trauma caused by verbal abuse, defamation, spreading false rumors and the likes as well [Choshen Mishpat 420: 38].
Defaming the Deceased
It is a grave sin to defame the deceased. One who did so must repent appropriately [see Choshen Mishpat 420: 38].
Costs for a necessary altered diet due to the healing process is included in configuring the medical costs [Choshen Mishpat 420: 3].
Beis Din estimates the cost of medical care and bills a one-time fee to the aggressor [Choshen Mishpat 420: 18].
The aggressor cannot get away with bringing in a cheaper below-par doctor against the victim’s will [Choshen Mishpat 420: 22].
The aggressor can object to the victim demanding to “pocket the medical fees and claim that he/she will take care of things on his/her own” [Choshen Mishpat 420: 23].
A homeowner may physically remove a trespasser. A homeowner may physically harm a trespasser who refuses to leave or who poses an immediate financial threat [Choshen Mishpat 421: 6].
When A and B agree to play an aggressive game in which an injury could have been expected, they both appreciate the nature of the game that it is impossible to ensure that no one will get hurt in the thick of things. In all seriousness, they therefore inherently absolved each other from any potential reparations
Thus, were A and B to have agreed to play tackle football or rugby, which ultimately resulted in an injury inflicted by A to B during the normal course of the game, A is absolved from paying B [Choshen Mishpat 421:5].
To the degree that the blow or shaming is necessary, it is permitted to harm or shame an aggressor in self defense[Choshen Mishpat 421: 13].