Wednesday, June 16, 2004

So tonight I watched Titanic on my new VCR. God, that movie makes me cry every time!

Here's something I like to think about to take my mind off the horrible tragedy of Titanic, and the contemporary tragedy that I'm still single and have never experienced anything remotely close to the relationship between Rose and Jack (not that I'm expecting a relationship so dramatic, or one that becomes so intense in only 4 days, or which somehow inspires me to completely overhaul my entire lifestyle, or which ends in a luxury liner sinking into freezing water, but you know what I mean).

The question is this: From a halachic perspective, to whom does the Heart of the Ocean belong?

Step 1: Calvin Hockley purchases the diamond and buys a large insurance policy for it.

Step 2: He gives it to Rose as an early engagement present. I'm not sure how important the intentions are here; often in halacha they are important. On one hand, he gives it to her as a gift. On the other hand, there is a clear understanding between them that the diamond is part of an arrangement: She will marry him, and he will continue to ply her with riches. In this sense, the diamond can be seen as the price of "purchasing" the bride. It's clear to both of them that by accepting the gift, she is also accepting a future with him.

Step 3: Rose has an affair with Jack, and tells Jack that when the boat docks, she's getting off with him. At this moment, Rose has reneged on her part of the "deal" with Hockley. She no longer has any intention of marrying him.

Step 4: Rose goes off to save Jack from the bottom of the Titanic, and Hockley says something like "What? You're going to be a whore to that gutterscum?" to which Rose replies "I'd rather be his whore than your wife," spits in his face, and walks away. So now Hockley has been notified that the engagement is officially off.

Step 5: After almost drowning together, Rose and Jack return to the ship's deck. Hockley finds them and gives his coat to Rose. He has forgotten that the diamond is in the coat pocket. He did not intend to give Rose possession of the diamond, but now she in fact has possession of it.

Step 6: Hockley, believing that his former fiancee, his coat, and the valuable diamond have all sunk to the bottom of the sea, loses hope of ever finding it and files an insurance claim for it.

Step 7: An insurance company gives Hockley a lot of money to cover the loss of the diamond.

Step 8: Rose finds the diamond in the coat pocket, but keeps the fact that she has survived a secret. She never informs anyone from her "old" life that she is alive, and goes off to live a life of freedom and adventure - "making it count," as Jack would have wanted her to. She keeps the diamond in her underwear drawer or something for the next 84 years.

Now, we all know what Rose does with the necklace after those 84 years. And from a practical standpoint, it was probably the best idea. If she'd died and left it to be found by someone else, a court circus would have ensued and no one would have been happy, really.

But what was she obligated to do according to the strict letter of halacha? And for those who don't know enough about halacha to answer this, then what about ethically? Should she have given the diamond to the insurance company? To Hockley's heirs? To her own heirs?

This keeps me up at night. I'm not kidding.

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