Dov and Aryeh were planning to attend a professional convention at a remote convention center. They bumped into each other a few days before the event.
“How are you getting to the convention?” asked Aryeh. “It’s way out there.”
“I’m not sure yet,” replied Dov. “My car is not available, so I’m probably going to order a car service. Are you interested in sharing it?”
“I can’t afford a car service,” said Aryeh. “If I can’t get a ride with someone else, I’ll have to go by public transportation.”
“Well, good luck,” said Dov. “Let me know if you change your mind.”
The morning of the convention, Aryeh met Dov outside shul. “Did you find anybody who’s driving?” Dov asked.
“No,” replied Aryeh. “It looks like I’m going to have to schlep around on public transportation. Three trains and a bus – but what can I do?”
“It’s not that bad,” said Dov. “Just make sure you leave enough time.”
“How are you going?” asked Aryeh.
“I ordered a car service,” said Dov. “He’s picking me up at 4 p.m.”
“Is anyone else going with you?” asked Aryeh.
“No,” replied Dov, “just me.”
“So, maybe I can come along for the ride?” asked Aryeh.
“I’m happy to share the cab with you,” said Dov “I offered you from the beginning to share it, but you said you weren’t interested.”
“I meant, since there’s plenty of space in the car,” said Aryeh, “maybe you’d let me ride along for free.”
“What?” said Dov. “I should pay everything and you should be able to come free?”
“What’s it to you?” argued Aryeh. “You’re paying for the cab anyway!”
“Why should I be the only one paying?” replied Dov. “If you want to come, chip in your share!”
“It’s not worth it to me,” responded Aryeh. “If I don’t get a ride, I’ll have to take public transportation. It doesn’t cost you anything to allow me to come along; it just helps me.”
“But if I let you come for free, you certainly won’t pay,” said Dov. “This way, maybe you’ll decide to chip in. I’m willing to cover two-thirds of the cost. ”
“I just can’t afford it,” said Aryeh. “I’m willing to pay the cost of public transportation, but absolutely not more.”
“I don’t consider that a fair offer,” said Dov. “Two-thirds/one third is the most I’m willing.”
Aryeh called Rabbi Dayan. “Dov ordered a car service to a convention and refuses to allow me to join without paying, so I’ll have to go by public transportation,” explained Aryeh. “Is there any reason to require Dov to allow me to come along for the ride?”
“Dov should allow you to come along, especially if you’re adamant about taking public transportation rather than paying,” answered Rabbi Dayan, “but he cannot be forced to do so according to many authorities.”
“What is this based on?” asked Aryeh.
“This question relates to a concept known as kofin al midas Sodom,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “In Sodom, people refused to let others benefit from their property even when it did not entail any loss to them. This behavior is frowned upon. Sometimes, we even force people not to act this way but to let others benefit.”
“Isn’t that what Dov is doing?!” exclaimed Aryeh.
“Not exactly,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Middas Sodom applies when the owner cannot gain from his property, yet wants to withhold benefit from others. There is a dispute, however, about whether it applies when he withholds the benefit as leverage to make the other party pay for it. For example, if someone asked to join a ride to work on a regular basis, the car owner could refuse according to the lenient opinion – even if it didn’t cause any hardship –with the hope that the other passenger might agree to carpool or chip in significantly for gas.” (Rama 154:3; 174:1; 363:6)
About the Author: Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail email@example.com.
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