Teshuva in Responsa IX
A Responsumof Rav Yechezkail Landau concerns the much-discussed question of the penance to be imposed where a fatal accident has occurred. The Responsum is addressed to Laib Lichtenstadt, whom an old man begged to be allowed to become his agent to sell goods on commission.
Lichtenstadt warned the man that there was danger in the enterprise, but the man insisted on being sent. Lichtenstadt eventually gave in but, unfortunately, his fears were well founded and the old man lost his life.
Lichtenstadt wishes to be advised hot to do penance. The question, says the Nodeh B’Yehudah, has been discussed in the Responsa of Rav Jacob Weil. Rav Weil’s case concerns A who sent B on an errand, and B was killed by bandits, but here the old man virtually compelled Lichtenstadt to appoint him as his agent and he brought it on himself. It is the universal custom for agents to sell goods on commission at fairs. It has never been suggested that the owner of the goods should be held in any way responsible for fatal accidents that might befall the agents.
However, since it appears that the Rabbi of Lichtenstadt’s community has already imposed a penance, Landau should fast on a Monday, Thursday, and the following Monday.
If he wishes, in addition, to help the victim’s heirs financially, so much the better.