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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 56 - Visiting Day - Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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12/3/10

Fellow Weekly - Issue 56

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, please send an email to weekly@projectfellow.org with the word subscribe in the subject line.

CASE 156: Visiting Day

Nine-year-old Benny Miller hung his homemade calendar over his rickety bunk bed. As he laid his weary head down to rest each night, Benny placed a sticker on another exciting day gone by. Though enjoying every minute of his camp experience, Benny launched a countdown to July 11.

On that fateful Sunday morning, Mrs. Miller would make that grueling bumper-to-bumper journey en route from Scranton PA to the Catskills. She'd appear at the camp gate wiping the sweat off her brow, smiling from ear to ear, and giving little Benny a big warm embrace. Mom's hugs and words of encouragement nourished Benny with the courage and self-confidence he needed to succeed. Benny's sparkling blue eyes and responsive beam made Mom's arduous trip worth all of the effort!

Mrs. Miller arrived on the campgrounds early Sunday morning and the two were soon off to spend quality time at a popular shady lookout on Briscoe Rd. overlooking Swan Lake. While the green and brown leaves rustled in the soothing breeze, Benny and Mom tried to avoid eye contact with the untold number of "camp refugees" that arrived from the various area camps to spend some precious private time with their respective visitors about the lake.

As the sun began to dip towards the horizon and the lookout was all but empty, Mrs. Miller and Benny made their way from the lakeside to their white Toyota Prius. Suddenly, Mrs. Miller stopped. "What's the matter Mom?" asked Benny. "Look at this I see on my left. Someone forgot his or her care-package."

Mrs. Miller bent down, opened the tan bag and found five disposable cameras, one amber pair of Swedish goggles, a new pair of grey imitation crocks, a thirty dollar prepaid calling card, a dairy crumb cake, and a note on the back of a photo, which read,

"Dear Dani, Sorry we could not make it this year. Turn this note over and smile back at your new baby sister. She will be waiting for you back home.

Love Mom and Dad."

- "What should I do?" wondered Mrs. Miller out loud.

"If I leave the package here, it may get stolen or tossed in the trash. While if I bring the care-package back with me to our small close-knit Scranton community and attempt to locate the owner from home, Dani will probably need to swim with his eyes closed and wait till he returns home to get acquainted with his new baby sister?"

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 155: Welcome to Shortsighted

"Welcome to Shortsighted. We offer scheduled bus service to New York City from Upstate New York with special service to and from Woodbury Common Premium Outlets®, Northern New Jersey, and Eastern Pennsylvania, along with exciting tours and professional charter service. In addition, our friendly customer service department offers you the peace of mind for which every traveler yearns.

Forgot a Torah Scroll on the bus? Sit back and leave the anxiety to us. Leave your worries behind. Shortsighted will make every effort to locate the owner. We go so far as to post photos in the news of the items we find and wait for the rightful owner to step forward. We are certain that only the finest most acutely aware citizens ride Shortsighted. So you won't go through too much hassle in retrieving your item, or contending with other claimants, our Lost and Found policies are based on an upstanding honor system. First come first serve. Provide us with one identifying feature and reunite with your belongings... or maybe not..."

1. How should Shortsighted publicize their finds?

2. What measure of proof must the claimant provide in order to retrieve his or her belongings?

3. If two claimants step forward and provide identifying features, how should Shortsighted react?

What is the law?

The Answer

[See Application].

Detailed Explanation

Shortsighted implicates the following six laws.

1.Hashavat Aveidah requires the finder to see to it that the article reunites with its rightful owner, to the best of his or her ability. This includes publicizing the find in a manner through which it is reasonably possible for the prospective loser to notice the posting.

Examples are local public billboards, synagogues, local circulars and media venues [Choshen Mishpat 267: 3].

2. The finder should continue to publicize the find until he or she can be reasonably sure that the loser would have seen the posting [Choshen Mishpat 267: 3].

3. The finder need not incur a financial loss in the effort to return the article. Nevertheless, one who is perpetually stingy about helping others will become cruel and eventually become needy whereby having to come on to others [Choshen Mishpat 267: 1].

4. The finder publicizes the name of the item without disclosing any significant identifying features through which the claimant could use to recover his or her article [Choshen Mishpat 267: 4].

As it is common that multiple individuals lose similar items, the finder must demand from the claimant identifying features to ensure that the loser receives the article he or she lost and not someone else's article inadvertently.

Not all identifying features provide sufficient proof of ownership. Modern mass production compounds this issue. Standard, common features like color and sizes are insufficient proof of ownership. For instance, there are millions of "grey crocks size small, blue Parker pens and size 16 white men's shirts".

In order to prove ownership, second to providing witnesses, the claimant must produce unique identifying features. Examples of such, are unique scratches or holes in a particular area, markings, nametags, non-standard metrics and quantity. In a Torah scroll, one could identify the unique styling of particular letters, pattern of the shadings on the outside of the hide etc. [Choshen Mishpat 267: 5, 7].

When two claimants produce proof of ownership, the finder awards the one who produces two witnesses. Succeeding two witnesses is the one who produces the most telling unique feature [Choshen Mishpat 267: 9- 14].

Application:

Shortsighted could publicize their find in local newspapers, news sites, in local synagogues and meeting places. [They could post it on HashavasAveidah.com as well.] Shortsighted should continue to post their find for a reasonable duration of time. Shortsighted may return it to a claimant who produces unique identifying features. As there are many medium size Torah scrolls with a blue velvet cover, a claimant could not retrieve the item by disclosing that, "It was a medium size scroll with a blue cover." A unique definitive identifying feature is required. Consequently, posting a photo of the scroll in a blue cover would not be problematic provided that the inscriptions and names remained indiscernible in the photo.

Shortsighted returns the Scroll to the claimant who produces the most telling identifying feature. Shortsighted may request the loser to pay for expenditures they may have incurred to affect the return.

[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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