Do we expect people to know what we are thinking?
The Mishkan was set to begin its daily operation on the first day of Nissan. After Aharon completed his first day of sacrificial service, he lifted his hands and blessed Klal Yisrael with the Bircas Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing, for the first time. With his generous spirit he bestowed the Blessing and he and his progeny were designated with the task for all time.
Although typically Kohanim are very enthusiastic to perform this Mitzvah, there was one Kohen who was not sure if he should. He was a wealthy individual visiting a community that he passed in his travels. Why was he reluctant? He was wearing new snakeskin shoes that he had purchased for 500 euros (close to $600). Kohanim must remove their shoes before stepping up to the platform. He looked around the room, examining the crowd and somehow the people looked suspicious to him.
On one hand he thought part of the blessing is,”V’Yishmerecha, He will guard and protect you,” from those who seek to take away your money. Therefore, he should have no reservation. On the other hand he felt very uneasy leaving his shoes without them being watched. He considered that going outside at that point would relieve him from his uneasiness, but it would be at the expense of giving up a Mitzvah.
While he was contemplating his next step a person in the Shul caught his attention. Reuven looked like a G-d fearing person. The Kohen figured he would put his shoes in a bag, and give them to Reuven to watch. Reuven accepted the shoes even after hearing how expensive they were, and the Kohen ascended to the platform.
Reuven was a pious individual. He kept in mind the directive of the sages that someone should concentrate fully on the blessings, not turn here or there. He should close his eyes, not think of anything else, as if he was davening Shemoneh Esrei. As in Shemoneh Esrei, a person does not hold things in his hands, so Reuven put down the bag, and moved towards the Kohanim. As far as the blessings were concerned he had total immersion.
Bircas Kohanim was completed. The Kohen removed the Tallis from his head and walked towards Reuven. Reuven opened his eyes. The Kohen asked, “Where is the bag?” Reuven had no idea. They looked throughout the Shul. No bag. No shoes.
The Kohen said, “I gave you the bag and expressly asked you to watch them. You are that person who is referred to in Halacha as a Shomer Shepashah, a delinquent guardian, who is responsible to pay for the item.” Reuven responded, “I said I would watch it, but that did not entail changing the way that I stand to receive the blessing. I am sorry about your shoes. However, I will not pay for them unless Beis Din rules that I should.” What was the verdict of Beis Din?
Rav Yitzchak Silberstein ruled that Reuven must pay for the shoes. He is indeed a delinquent guardian. His claim about closing his eyes would not absolve him from responsibility. Although it enhances the Mitzvah, It is not required. It is true that one should not hold something in his hands during Shemoneh Esrei. However, there is allowance if the person is concerned about theft. If this applies for one’s own possessions, it certainly does when someone accepted the task to watch another’s. Particularly in a place where there were people of questionable character, Reuven should have held onto the bag during the time of the blessings and therefore was required to pay. The Kohen, however, would have to prove he spent 500 euros.
Do we assume people know our standards? Can we make distinctions between what we do and what we must? Do we take the effort to express detail and clarify or do we rely on assumptions?
Rabbi Hershel D. Becker
 Shemini 9:22, Rashi