If a Jew is unwittingly the cause of serious harm to somebody else, how should he feel?
Now the question is what is meant by ‘unwittingly’? You know, if a man kills somebody b’shogeig, he didn’t intend to kill, the law is that if the goel hadam catches him he can kill him; a relative can kill him. Because a shogeig is also blameworthy. If it is an oness, it was something entirely beyond is ability to prevent, so you can’t blame him; but otherwise there is a very great blood-guilt on a person who even indirectly has a share in somebody’s death.
There is a teshuvah in one of the teshuvah sefarim; this was the question: A man sent a boy, a youth, to drive a wagon at night through the forest to deliver some merchandise. Now at night it is not so easy to drive on the road, and the wagon overturned and the boy perished. And the questioner wanted to know what type of teshuva he has to do for sending the boy on the errand. So the chacham who answered the teshuvah told him that it’s a very serious matter. He said you have to fast so and so many days every year, and you have to give away so and so much money to establish a fund to do mitzvos to make up for the mitzvos this boy lost. A very great and difficult teshuvah! All he did was send him on an errand?!
The answer is because anybody who is responsible for somebody’s life even indirectly and unwittingly, has to have it on his conscience always. It is a very serious matter. So therefore, what people call unwitting and not responsible is not necessarily in concert with the language of Torah; it is not necessarily true.
TAPE # 405 (May 1982)