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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 64 "Uncle Sam or Johnny's Walker" Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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Fellow Weekly - Issue 64

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 164: Uncle Sam or Johnny's Walker?

David Stern Esq. continued to stride forward in his legal and political career. Yet, he never lost sight of the needs of the common citizen. His heart and ears were forever open to listen and lend a hand to his fellow human being when feasible. Stern's friends, supporters and constituents knew that they had an advocate with the public's interest on their side.

Ever since David's adolescence, he would allocate ten percent of his earnings towards charitable causes. The poor and underprivileged were high on his priority list. In addition, Stern himself founded an organization which provided subsidized wheelchairs and walkers for children with disabilities.

His high standard of personal integrity, amiable personality and two decades of community activism made David Stern the perfect candidate to assume the high profiled position of Executive Director of Public Affairs for the [CCBS] Chicago Community Board for Safety and Quality of Life.

On September 1, 2010, David convened with the Board of Governors to draw up a business contract. As they sat, mulling over numerous details and fine print, Stern suddenly became vexed with the following two dilemmas.

1. Now that his salary had grown exponentially, did his long-standing custom of allocating ten percent of his income to charitable causes compel him to continue his practice?

2. Assuming he must continue his practice, how should he figure his salary?

CCBS would issue a direct deposit to his bank account and automatically take off income taxes. Should he allocate ten percent of his gross salary or ten percent of the funds he actually will receive?

Uncle Sam or Johnny's Walker?

What is the law?

[Submitted by Ms. E. G. Chicago, Illinois]

Please email us with your comments and answers at

Read next week's issue for the answer!


CASE 163: Cashed In!

Sonia Good of Bakersfield, California enjoyed her spending golden years at the Glenwood Gardens; a beautiful assisted living community which offered attractive continuing care and retirement facilities. Her children and grandchildren made it their business to visit her throughout the week. Sonia 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, Sonia'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 Sonia. Sonia handed Leah $1.50. Leah paid Jonathan and took their cup of Orange Juice . Together, Grandma and Leah 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 Milun - Madison, Wisconsin / London]

The Answer

Jonathan may keep his windfall.

Detailed Explanation

Cashed In! implicates the following law.


Generally, a legal acquisition or transfer of ownership results from a synthesis of two integral factors - a defined means of acquisition and a level of cognitive awareness. Even in certain specified instances where one need not be actively aware of the transition at the time of the transfer, such acquisition results only if it is probable that the acquire would discover his/her acquisition in the near future. Otherwise, a "prescribed means of acquisition" alone does not effect a transfer of ownership of the article. Such an article either remains ownerless or in the possession of the initial owner.

Consequently, we can appreciate the following law.

1. A middleman purchased and resold metal presuming from the onset that the merchandise was iron. Subsequently, the customer discovered a precious metal hidden beneath the iron coating. The customer need not return the merchandise to the middleman [Choshen Mishpat 232: 18, Pischei Teshuva 8 , Nesivos Hamishpat 8].


Although, nowadays coin value information readily available, people generally do not take note of the dates printed on their coins. Instead, when performing any means of legal acquisition of currency, one's cognitive awareness is limited to the face value of the coin or promissory note. The acquisition of its value as an antique or collectors' item will not be effected before becoming aware of its value.

In our case, the collectors' value of the quarter remained forever ownerless and becomes the property of the one who discovers its value.

Consequently, as Grandma Sonia never knew she carried a collectors item, she lacked legal ownership of the additional value. Similarly, we may comfortably assume that the storeowner would never have found out that a 1932 quarter lay in his or her cash register. As such, the proprietor will not become the legal owner of its collectors' value. Jonathan discovered a windfall. As long as the makes the proprietor whole, by giving him or her the due twenty five cents, he may redeem his discovery as he sees fit.

[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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