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Fellow Weekly Newsletter -Issue 63 - "Cashed In!" - Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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Fellow Weekly - Issue 63

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 with the word subscribe in the subject line.

CASE 162: Cashed In!

Sonja Good of Bakersfield California enjoyed her spending golden years at the Glenwood Gardens, a beautiful an assisted living community which offered attractive Continuing care retirement facilities. Her children and grandchildren made it their business to visit her throughout the week. Sonja would listen to the children talk, teach them how to knit, play bingo with them and share with them eighty-nine years of history.

Last Tuesday afternoon, Sonja's ten-year-old granddaughter Leah Rice came to visit. They decided to take a stroll down the road to Pride's Produce Stand to purchase a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice.

That will be $1.50 please", said Jonathan, the cashier. "Sure thing", replied Sonja. Sonja handed Leah $1.50, they took their cup of Orange Juice and sat down beneath the shady green tree to enjoy the fresh air, their drink and most of all each other's company.

Jonathan looked at one of the quarters Leah had handed him. Suddenly his heart began to race. "I can strike it rich today," he said to himself. "Look here, this madam gave me a 1932 US quarter which sells as a collector's item for $1000."Jonathan took a quarter from his pocket, switched it for the collector's quarter and promptly placed $1.50 in the cash register.

Jonathan made a mental note to cash in his quarter before nightfall.

What is the law?

[Submitted by Sandor Milan - Madison, Wisconsin / London]

Please email us with your comments and answers at

Read next week's issue for the answer!


CASE 162: A Free Ride?

Rail Corporation New South Wales (RailCorp) is a statutory authority of the New South Wales government. RailCorp owns, operates and maintains the Sydney suburban and interurban rail network, marketed under the CityRail brand; in addition to operating rural passenger services under the CountryLink brand.

Trains operate for 20 hours a day, and over 900,000 weekday passenger journeys are made on 2365 daily services over 2080km of track and through 306 stations (including interurban lines).

"This past week in Sydney, the RailCorp workers who run the light rail inside the city went on strike due to contract disputes between the Union and RailCorp management.

The Union decided to strike in a way that would not inconvenience the city of Sydney, however would still get the message across to management. They ran the trains, yet they refused to check passenger tickets or sell new tickets.

As I entered the station, a very polite worker confronted me, smiled and happily advised me that today I should not bother going to the unoccupied ticket counter, as I need not buy a ticket today.

Uneasy about pilfering a free ride, I decided to try to purchase a ticket through the machine. I approached the machine only to find that a technician had beaten me to it. He had already began opening it up in order to disable the machine."

1. If I cannot convince the technician to allow me to purchase a ticket before he disables the machine, may I ride the train to work today?

2. Am I stealing if I take advantage of the strike and take multiple rides today?

3. If I may ride the train to work without paying for a ticket, must I pay for the ride when full service resumes?"

What is the law?

[Submitted by E. H. Jerusalem]

The Answer

As long as children will not wrongly learn from our behavior that jumping the turnstile or cheating an authority is allowed, one may ride the train free, even numerous times, during the duration of the strike.

Detailed Explanation

A Free Ride? implicates the following three laws.

1.One may not steal services from an individual, service provider, statutory authority, or government body. A thief is obligated to repay the value of the stolen services to the victim [Choshen Mishpat 348: 2 Shach 3].

2. 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 [Choshen Mishpat 259: 7].

3. One is obligated to be extra vigilant never to allow children to learn from our behavior, even if our actions are in accordance with the letter of the law; that cheating and swindling is permissible [Succah 46b].


Objectively, it is forbidden to board the train without paying for your ride at the required time. One who takes a free ride illegally must repay for his or her theft afterward.

However, in our instance, RailCorp knew of the impending strike, yet RailCorp continued providing train service.

Additionally, the authority knew that most of society would never even consider paying for their rides later. Even if they would not turn an individual down if he or she wished to pay later, they inevitably lost their claim to the value of the rides that day.

Thus, the circumstances are no different from a gale of water approaching articles on the beech. Railcorp, "threw the rides into the sea". Accordingly, one is not guilty of theft for riding the train even numerous times that day free.

However, when traveling with children one must make sure that they understand why today is different from the norm. If there is a possibility that children or people who somewhat lack a "finer discerning capacity" will mistakenly learn from our practice that one may jump the turnstile, then it is forbidden to ride the train that day.

[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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