Sanhedrin 19a: Keeping an Eye on your Children

Sanhedrin 19a: Rabbi Yosi in Tzipori made a law that a woman may not walk in the street with her son behind her, because of a story that happened. Rashi: A boy was kidnapped and taken into a house, and when the mother began to cry, one of the kidnappers offered to help and show her where her son went. When she entered the house, they raped her.

סנהדרין יט ע”א: ואמר רמי בר אבא: התקין רבי יוסי בציפורי שלא תהא אשה מהלכת בשוק ובנה אחריה, משום מעשה שהיה. פירש רש”י:  שגנבוהו פריצים מאחריה ונתנוהו בבית, וכשחזרה ולא ראתהו, התחילה צועקת ובוכה, בא אחד מהם ואמר: בואי ואראנו ליך, ונכנסה אחריו ועינו אותה. והובא להלכה באה”ע כב,יד.

A tichel-clad young woman walked into a Judaica shop in Yerushalayim with her 1-year-old baby in a stroller. “Please, I’d like to see your finest gold menorah,” she said. The saleslady pulled over a ladder and took down the $5,000 gold menorah – the most expensive item in the shop. The young lady’s eyes lit up. “Wow, this is really something,” she gushed. “Do you mind watching my baby while I run out and show it to my husband in the car? This is his idea, but it is a lot of money so I’d like to just double-check with him before finalizing.” As the recipient of commissions on high-end items, the saleslady’s eyes also lit up. “Sure, no problem.”

Five minutes passed, and then ten, but the saleslady wasn’t worried. After all, spending $5,000 is not a snap decision, and the young woman had left her baby there, so she would certainly be back soon.

Fifteen minutes later, a woman burst into the shop, screaming hysterically, “My baby! My baby!” This woman had left her baby unattended on the sidewalk while she entered a store, and the first lady – a professional con artist – took advantage by taking the baby, entering the Judaica shop with a tichel on her head and a baby in tow, and then absconding with the menorah.

The owner of the shop took the saleslady to a din Torah before Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein, claiming that she had acted irresponsibly by allowing the menorah out of the shop unsupervised. The saleslady responded that she had done exactly as the owner would have wanted her to do, and in fact what he himself would have done had he been there. After all, who would suspect that the baby had been nabbed off the street?

Harav Zilberstein paskened that the saleslady indeed had acted as the owner would have wanted, and therefore was not liable to pay. But the real guilty party in this story was the woman who had left her baby unattended. She violated the takanah of Chazal that a woman may not walk in the street with her child trailing behind her, out of her sight.

Source: Hamodia November 27, 2019

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