Q. A friend asked another friend traveling to the states to kindly take for him a small suitcase. He did so but when they stopped to rest, the locked car was broken into and the suitcase was stolen. The driver claimed that he was after all only a shomer chinom, an unpaid agent, as he was just doing a favor, so he is exempt from any restitution.
However, when the driver was asked by the suitcase owner, if he recited tefilat hadderech, he truthfully replied that he did not. So now the owner claims that he is a poshea or negligent shomer, since if he had recited the tefila, likely no wrong would have happened. Does he have a claim?
Would he have a claim if he kept the suitcase in a room without a mezuzah?
A. Poskim maintain a separation between Halacha matters that depend on actual facts and the proven and expected realities of life as opposed to more spiritual, unproven and immaterial issues, such as blessings, tefilos and segulos, that although tremendously important and essential, lack the sensory reality and physical presence, necessary in monetary rulings and other aspects of Halacha.
Maharsham (3: 225), deals with the prohibition of writing amulets on Shabbos, even with the intention of saving someones life. He relates about a local Dayan who permitted the writing of a note with a name of a dangerously ill person by a non-Jew, that he then, carried to the city of Brod, to be delivered to the Belzer Rebbe for a blessing. Rav Shlomo Kluger zt’l, the Rov of Brod, removed that Dayan from office for the chilul Shabbos committed.
In Vehaarev Na, (2: ), Horav Y. Zilberstein, deals with a similar case, of someone leaving the door of the house unlocked on the night of Pesach, relying on the Leil Shimurim promise of that night, and then actually being robbed on that night. He maintains that he is liable to pay for the stolen goods of others.
See also Kehilas Yaakov (Baba Kama 45) in regard to praying for the harm of an evil person and Birur Halocho on daveing during the Shemita year for rains, even when you cannot work physically or water the land.
Horav Shlomo Miller’s Shlit’a opinion is similar and the shomer who did not recite tefilas haderech or placed the suitcase in a room without a mezuza, is not liable for negligence if the item was stolen.
Rabbi A. Bartfeld as revised by Horav Shlomo Miller Shlit’a