When Reuven physically damages Shimon, he must pay for, among other things, the physical pain caused by his actions (tza’ar), the embarrassment caused by his actions (boshes), and reimbursement for the doctors’ treating him for his wounds (ripui). However, all of these payments are triggered by physical pain.

Theoretical scenario #1: Reuven verbally bullies Shimon terribly throughout school. Shimon suffers severe psychological trauma as a result. He then goes to a psychologist to help him recover. Can Shimon force Reuven to pay for the psychologist visits? One might be inclined to say yes, since this was caused as a result of Reuven’s actions; however, perhaps, as noted above, only physical pain triggers payment.

Theoretical scenario #2: Reuven physically bullies Shimon. Obviously Reuven has to pay for the physical damage, but does he have to pay for the psychologist visits in this scenario? Unlike before, there is now physical damage triggering the payments. On the other hand, it’s not the physical pain that’s being treated. Even with boshes payment, that is for embarrassment caused by the physical attack, whereas here it’s still a purely psychological “wound.”

Theoretical scenario #3: Reuven kills Shimon’s pet. It is well-known that Shimon was very attached to this pet. Obviously Reuven must pay for the physical damage to the pet; must Reuven pay for the psychologist visit in this scenario, which is even more removed (possibly) than scenario #2?

In other words: Can one be forced to pay for psychological treatment required by his actions, and if so, how direct must it be?

Assume for simplicity’s sake that all parties are legally competent (i.e. adult, sane, etc.) Jews, and that there are witnesses, etc., which would force Reuven to pay if payment is called for.



2 Answers 2


A very relevant passage is Nidda (47a) which relates that Sh'muel, examined the body of his slave, to better understand the maturity process and at which point bagrut is achieved. He then paid her 400 zuz to compensate her for the indignity. He explained that the Torah allows one to work a slave; not to embarrass her.

It seems that compensation was necessary even though there is no evidence that he physically hurt her, or even physically touched her; just that he embarrassed her. Rambam cites Sh'muel's reasoning (Avadim 9:8).

Tosafot (s.v. badak) claims that this payment was not technically necessary, since according to one view, slaves are not subject to boshet payments, and if they are, it goes to their master. However, there is no suggestion that he would have been exempt from paying since there is no evidence that he physically hurt her, or even touched her. Rather, it seems the embarrassment alone would warrant compensation, even according to Tosafot.[i]

It would seem probable that the other elements of compensation would apply as well. However, this answer notes that the Bavli Bava Kamma (56a) cites the Tosefta Bava Kamma (6:16, in R. Lieberman's edition), that states that someone who scares someone else is liable according to dieni Shamayim; heavenly law, but exempt from payment in human court. Bava Kamma (91a) explains that the damage was facilitated by the victim, so the perpetrator is exempt.

This exemption seems to be referring to nezek damage (as the same passage in Tosefta applies the same ruling to scaring animals, where the relevant payment would be nezek.

However, it is not clear (to me) that in every case of bullying the bully would be exempt from payment. The exemption seems to be based on the exemption of damage via g'rama; indirect means, (as explained by Tosafot Talmid Rabbenu Tam to Bava Kamma 36b, Rabbenu Hananel Bar Sh'muel to Kiddushin 25a and Riaz Bava Kamma 6:1:12). It could be argued that by definition, psychological damage depends on the psyche of the victim, therefore there is a factor other than the bully, but it could also be argued that if the victim is sufficiently helpless (for example an infant) that psychological damage imposed might not be considered to be based on the victim, but just the perpetrator.

Even if he would be exempt from 'nezek', it is not clear that he would be exempt from other forms of compensation (such as boshet, which as indicated above it would seem he would have to pay). After all, boshet is by definition based on the perception of the victim, yet there is no exemption for boshet. Meiri writes (Bava Kamma 91a) that even in cases where the above exemption exists, the perpetrator would still have to pay boshet. However, the Meiri exempts him from the other compensatory payments.

[i] See Arukh Laner. If I understand correctly, he states that according to Rambam, the payment is an actual necessity; not like Tosafot.

  • 1
    Great start. I’m not sure whether this would help, though; while this proves that there is payment for purely psychological trauma, does it prove that there is an equivalent for ripui by it? Second, how closely related must it be? Shmuel very directly embarrassed his slave. In my scenario 3, for instance, Reuven isn’t directly causing Shimon psychological trauma in the sense that he’s not attacking Shimon, but rather is attacking his animal, which incidentally pains Shimon.
    – DonielF
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 0:04

The halacha in C.M. 420'32' states that a person who scares and alarms his friend who in turn is damaged emotionally is not liable in beit din as the Gemara in Baba Kama 91'a' explains that it was he himself who let himself become frightened and be disturbed. A person possessing strength and confidence shall not get blown away by this.

This, according to the Chazon Yechezkel Babaa Kama 6' 5', includes a case where the one being hurt cannot prevent his mind from being damaged due to his psyche.

The same would be when one should scream into one's ears and thereby deafen him he would not be liable for the same reason,and referring to this, the aforementioned Chazon Yechezkel says that even when he wasn't able to turn his head away the screamer is potur.

This is unless it is done as the halacha calls it begufoh meaning he, for instance, grabbed on to his friend's ears when screaming into it as that shall be considered direct hezek and would have him liable for its ramifications.

Therefore when considering our case if he bullied him and the one bullied being inept lets himself be subjugated to the bully he himself is the cause of the damage done.

If the Bully acted via physically taking charge of him, hands on the boy then he shall be liable to compensate for the sessions.

Midinei shomaim, however, he is liable in any case as it is by any g'ramah.

  • Great mareh makom! I edited my post to take it into account, and linked to your post.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 22:57

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