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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 49 - Diamonds and Platinum - Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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10/14/10

Welcome to Fellow Weekly!

Encouraging intelligent and entertaining debate at your Shabbos table. Fellow Weekly raises issues of business law and ethics through lively emails by featuring your real-life scenarios answered by our leading authorities and professionals’

To join this mailing list send an email to weekly@projectfellow.org with the word subscribe in the subject line.

CASE 150: Diamonds and Platinum

[Lake Harmony, PA]

Shira held Sara's hand tightly as heavy tears rolled down her cheeks. Her body quivered in emotional turmoil and fear of the unknown. It seemed as though within a few minutes her life came crashing down on her. Just three weeks ago, her finger began to happily bespeak of her upcoming nuptials, and now...the diamond ring was nowhere to be found.

Almost two thousand delegates including teachers, principals, and lay leaders from across the country milled about the Pocono resort during the National Leadership Convention. Not to mention the hosts of waiters, bellboys, and servicemen. Shira retraced her steps, looked over and over again around the vanity counter in the washroom, but to no avail...Sara continued to hold her hand tightly, commiserated with her pain then gave her assurance that things would work out for the best.

[Jerusalem]

Bernice Freed joined a group tour during the spring holiday season. Thousands of tourists made their way through the Old City visiting the numerous Jerusalem attractions.

At lunch time, Bernice found herself near a highly populated bagel shop. She ordered her meal, and went to the washroom to wash up. Drying her hands, her eyes beheld a sparkle on the sink counter. A platinum wedding band!

1. If one were to find a diamond ring during the Leadership Convention, what should the finder do?

2. What should Bernice do?

What is the law?

Please email us with your comments and answers at weekly@projectfellow.org

Read next week's issue for the answer!

LAST WEEK'S CASE

CASE 149: Enchanted Domras

[A True Story by Rebetzin Dara Goldshmidt of Moscow, Russia]

Just Last Friday night, beneath the glowing Shabbat lights

The young girls cast their stories of their courage and their might.

Our names are Naomi and Keren, music fills our lives with joy.

To us our valued domras (Domras are a very ancient form of the Russian balalaika)

More precious than a mere toy.

Late one Friday, by then the afternoon,

Leaving Moscow for the hut where the master sat to tune.

Time before Shabbat there was still left to return in time.

But this week would be different for our faith would truly shine.

Missing our station lone in Siberian condition

Return to Moscow before sunset was now our sacred mission.

Circumstance would delay our successful aim that day

As the clock continued ticking ferociously away.

Our hearts tremored overflowed with deep emotion

We prayed to our dear Father with sincere faith and devotion -

that on our Shabbat day

carry not nor travel on our way

Hand in loving hand found a senior woman from her dacha

She'd be our precious partner to keep the Shabbat Halacha

We handed her our purses, her number committed to our mind.

To retrieve after Shabbat, our fate we eagerly signed.

The domras were too heavy the old woman could not take

Searched quickly for a remedy we were ready for the stake

Our precious valued domras we joyfully placed in the janitor's room

Hoping that after Shabbat we would again play our favorite tune.

A celestial feeling of courage so supreme

Souls soared above the heavens - we met the Shabbat Queen

The clock continues ticking ferociously once more

The sun soon set again no domras we were sure

Yet the janitor had been kind our eyes beheld a find.

Our precious valued domra's enchanted their sweet heavenly refrain

Inspired and enlightened, our lives never more the same.

1. Did the janitor have the right to keep the domras for himself, claiming that the girls had basically abandoned them and therefore they were ownerless?

2. If Naomi and Keren had left the domras in the refuse closet without informing anyone and a third party randomly found them therein before the refuse collectors arrived, could he or she keep them?

What is the law?

The Answer

We present you here with a concise ruling. For a more intricate elucidation, please see the detailed explanation below.

The Janitor may not keep the domras for himself. A random finder must leave the domras in their place as well (see detailed explanation below).

Detailed Explanation

Enchanted Domras implicates the following four fundamental laws.

1. One who accepts custodial responsibilities (a bailee) over an article (a bailment) [see issues 24, 26, 33, 47] is responsible to safeguard and return the deposit at the termination of service and is liable for negligence on his or her part <[i>Exodus 25:7, Choshen Mishpat 291: 1]

2. One is required to exert oneself to protect a fellow from suffering a financial loss.

This is the mitzvah of Hashavat Aveidah [Bava Metzia 31a]. This includes gathering in a lost

object, safegaurding it and attempting to identify its rightful owner. A number of exceptions to this rule follow.

3. A rubbish heap not regularly cleared away can serve as a semi-protected hiding place. Consequently, when finding an article without identifying features, which appears to have been intentionally placed therein, one must be wary lest the owner expect to retreive it

prior to the next refuse collection. The article is not deemed "going lost" and the finder

may not move it [Choshen Mishpat 260: 11]. On the contrary, moving such a standard hard to identify article from irs place would create difficulty for the owner to retrieve it and potentially cause the owner a loss.

4. Conversely, a rubbish heap subject to frequent clearing is an entirely unprotected

area. The owner accepts significant risk when intentionally placing his or her article therein. While conditions would deam the article "going lost from the owner", which should warrant the finder to attempt to return it, the owner chose to place his or her belongings in such a precarious state. Thus, the finder is not required to display more care for the article than the owner displayed. This is true even if the article has unique identifying features. Accordingly, the finder need not gather it in, safeguard it or attempt to identify its rightful owner. Instead, the finder may leave the article in its place [ibid].

Whether the finder may keep such an article is subject to discussion: on one hand the owner seemed not to have cared to much about the article. on the other hand it is possible to assume that the owner had no other place to store the article as in the case of Enchanted Domras, and thus never truly relinquished ownership thereof.

As there is serious enough reason to assume the latter, one may not keep the article. Instead, the finder should leave it in its place[ibid. Sha"ch 33].

Application:

The Janitor and The Finder

In a scenario when the janitor accepted upon himself custodial responsibilities to safeguard the domras, it is clear that the janitor may not (nor anyone for that matter) take the domras for himself.

Even in a scenario when the janitor did not accept upon himself custodial responsibilities to safeguard the domras, and the girls left their instruments to fate, the finder should not remove the domras from their place irrespective of the frequency of rubbish removal thereof.

[Answered by the Fellow -Yesharim Research Center]

Note:

Although we aim to present the correct ruling, varying details are always important and decisively influence every individual case. Our readers are thus encouraged to present their personal cases to a competent authority and not solely rely on the information provided.

To join this mailing list, please send an email to weekly@projectfellow.org with the word subscribe in the subject line.

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