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Is scaring or startling someone for no reason allowed?

What if there is a reason, such as helping them get rid of the hiccups?

By scaring I am referring to causing someone to be afraid, such as by creating a spooky atmosphere or something like that. By startling I am referring to, well, startling.

I am not asking about any monetary responsibilities for damages possibly caused by startling them. I am asking if, aside from any damage-related concerns, there is any reason that scaring or startling is not allowed.

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    Do you have any reason to think that it isn't?
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 20:55
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    Dogs without chains are assur to keep because they might scare a pregnant lady to have a miscarriage. That is an extreme result, but it is also the dog not the owner. At the very least, if applicable, you are mitzaer the one who gets scared, and possibly embarrass him, possibly publicly.
    – user6591
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 23:33
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    @DoubleAA Some things are intuitive. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 2:24
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    @yEz I'm not picking on you. Indeed, there are many posts on this site which could be improved. Maybe someday I and others will manage to tackle all of them. FWIW I have not upvoted any of those questions, which are all pretty weak. You'll note as well that unlike here my request for clarification from the OP was not answered in those cases.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 3:58
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    @yEz I didn't say it's a bad question nor do I have any reason to sabotage (?) it. I think you didn't write a good question post for Mi Yodeya. Fact. I and Isaac are asking you politely to improve it. Please do so. I don't know why you think it matters how many votes a given post has; if there is room for improvement, it should be seized upon.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 4:00

2 Answers 2

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Startle:

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch says in סימן קפד - הלכות נזקי הגוף that one who startles somebody - e.g. by suddenly yelling behind him or appearing to him in the dark - is deserving of heavenly punishment. (But cannot be convicted for that sin in the world.)

סעיף ו: הַמַּבְעִית אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ, כְּגוֹן שֶׁצָּעַק עָלָיו מֵאֲחֲרָיו אוֹ שֶׁנִּרְאָה לוֹ בַּאֲפֵלָה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָזֶה, חַיָב בְּדִינֵי שָׁמָיִם. ‏

It would seem that startling somebody for a good reason (e.g. get rid of the hiccups) would be allowed.

Scare:

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch says in סימן קסה - דין חנוך קטנים that one should not threaten a child that they will be punished in the future for a crime already committed (rather one should punish immediately or not discuss punishment until close to the actual time of punishment) so as to not scare them. He brings the case of a child who was so scared of the upcoming punishment that he committed suicide.

סעיף ז: לֹא יְאַיֵם עַל הַתִּינוֹק שֶׁיַכֵּהוּ לְאַחַר זְמָן. אֶלָּא אִם רוֹאֵהוּ עוֹשֶׂה אֵיזֶה מַעֲשֶׂה, יַכֵּהוּ מִיָד אוֹ יִשְׁתֹּק לְגַמְרֵי. מַעֲשֶׂה בְּתִינוֹק שֶׁבָּרַח מִבֵּית הַסֵּפֶר, וְהִפְחִידוֹ אָבִיו שֶׁיַכֵּהוּ, הָלַךְ הַתִּינוֹק וְהֵמִית אֶת עַצְמוֹ (מַסֶּכֶת שְׂמָחוֹת פֶרֶק שֵנִי).‏

He also says in סימן לב - שמירת הגוף על פי הטבע towards the end of סעיף כב that fear causes the body to get colder - therefore people shiver when afraid - and the cooling down can be fatal.

הַפַּחַד יוֹלִיד בְּגוּף קְרִירוּת, וְלָכֵן יִקְרֶה לַמְפַחֵד, רְעָדָה. וּכְשֶׁתִּתְרַבֶּה הַקְרִירוּת, אוּלַי יָמוּת. ‏

It would seem that if there's no chance of physical or psychological damage, then one could create a scary atmosphere. But the Kitzur has warned us that it can be fatal, so be careful, since if somebody is scared to death one would be liable in heavenly court for killing them.

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  • Does he have classical basis for these claims?
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 17:32
  • @DoubleAA הַמַּבְעִית אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ - Bava Kama 56a. לֹא יְאַיֵם עַל הַתִּינוֹק is sourced inline (מַסֶּכֶת שְׂמָחוֹת). I can't find a classic source for הַפַּחַד יוֹלִיד בְּגוּף קְרִירוּת - he seems to be relying on his medical knowledge. Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 11:46
  • how about Siman 33 seif 14
    – sam
    Commented Jan 7, 2016 at 4:45
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I learned from my Rav that is a Torah prohibition of Onaas Devarim. Therefore, it could be permitted for a variety of good purposes.

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