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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 58 - "Werner or the Whale" Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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Fellow Weekly - Issue 58

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.

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CASE 158: Werner or The Whale

Realtor Gail Werner was born a broker. Gail ran a successful agency, and served on the SAJBD (South African Jewish Board of Deputies) as a popular advocate on behalf of the Cape Town Jewish Community. In addition, Gail used her expertise to assist singles in finding their match.

After weeks of hard work, Werner could barely contain her excitement. "Brokering the match between Adi and Annette proved to be a arduous task and the fruits of my labor are about to materialize", she thought to herself.

At a peaceful moment along the breathtaking harbor between the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, Adi took out of his portfolio a framed poem and uttered the magical words. Annette agreed.

Before heading home, Adi treated Annette to an exclusive whale-watching trip.

About fifteen minutes into the ocean, with a diamond brooch in his palm, Adi turns to Annette, "Do you get sea sick?"

Suddenly a massive southern right whale breached the surface of the ocean. The enormous animal came crashing down on the boat demolishing the mast and then swam away bruised.

The horn blew and the sailors sped back to the dock.

Traumatized was an understatement! The image of the mammoth mammal leaping over the boat haunted her throughout the day. "Adi...I'm the superstitious type. I'm calling this one off indefinitely until I can work myself through this mess."

Werner or the Whale?

Does Gail receive matchmaker brokerage fees?

What is the law?

Please email us with your comments and answers at .

Read next week's issue for the answer!


CASE 157: Popped Justice

After proofreading his lengthy article on Intellectual Property (IP), Justice Fritz Sherman stepped out of his chambers to get some fresh air and to clear his mind. Strolling about the freshly mowed park outside the Sullivan County courthouse, Justice Sherman stopped at the vending machine to purchase can of cold Sprite, selling for 75 cents.

Justice Sherman inserted one dollar and pressed the Sprite button. With his black robe rustling in the steady breeze, Sherman bent down graciously to pick up his purchase and retrieve his change. Much to his dismay, he struck a windfall. Out fell 50 cents and two cans of Sprite.

Unsure of how to proceed, Sherman thought to himself, "Who is going to follow the law if the Judge himself does not follow the law?

"What should Justice Sherman do with the additional soda pop can and extra change?

What is the law?

The Answer

Justice Fritz Sherman may keep the extra change and soda for himself. Unless local law stipulates otherwise, generally he may keep the extra change unconditionally. He is required to notify the vendor that the machine may be faulty. If the machine is indeed faulty he would be strongly encouraged to return the value of the second can to the vendor.

Detailed Explanation

Popped Justice implicates the following four laws.

1a. While generally, the owner cannot despair from retrieving an article without discovering the loss. One who loses an article to a lion, bear, and gales of a sea, rush of the river or similar circumstance of almost sure defeat despairs from ever retrieving it. Protesting the contrary is like crying over a collapsed home. As such, consciously or subconsciously the initial owner allows another party to pick up the article.

1b. Nevertheless, when knowing who the initial owner was, the finder is strongly encouraged to act "fair and good" and return the article nonetheless [See Issues 51, 52, 53]. Torah courts will even enforce following this noble route when local governments require returning article under such conditions [Choshen Mishpat 259: 5, 7].

2. Hashavat Aveidah includes protecting a fellow's belongings from being washed away by flooding, devoured by animals or suffering any other financial loss [Choshen Mishpat 259: 9].

3. Generally, loose money is standard and has no unique identifying features [Choshen Mishpat 262: 6, 11, 13].

4. Generally, A's guarded property and real estate works on A's behalf as A's extended hand and may affect a legal acquisition of lost/ownerless money or chattel positioned on the property which A will in all probability find.

A's unprotected property cannot affect a legal acquisition of money or chattel without A's presence [Choshen Mishpat 268:3].


Money left in a vending machine or soda falling from a faulty machine in the park surrounding Sullivan County courthouse is like losing an article to the gales of the sea. We can reasonably assume that the broad populaces making use of the machine are not Hashavat Aveidah observers. These are classical cases of "sure losses" and are deemed as though the owner despaired whether or not the owner knows of the loss. Thus, Sherman may keep his find.

Nevertheless, the Mitzvah of Hashavat Aveidah would require Sherman to notify the vendor that his/her machine may be faulty, thereby protecting the owner from future loss.

There is no way to know who lost the money.

Assuming the money belonged to the previous customer, the vendor did not acquire the money via his/her "unprotected change slot" and as such Justice Sherman becomes the legal owner thereof upon lifting up the ownerless coins.

Although Justice Sherman becomes the rightful owner of both the lost money and extra soda pop can, if the vendor can prove that the machine was faulty and emitted two cans while only having received payment for one, it would be noble for Sherman to pay for the additional received soda. In fact, he would be strongly encouraged to do so.

[Answered by the Fellow -Yesharim Research Center]


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.

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