Story LineStill ShovelingRabbi Meir Orlean
Snow had fallen all night, piling up almost a foot of snow.
“Can I borrow your shovel?” Mr. Weiss asked his neighbor, Mr. Schwartz, after Shacharis. “I have to shovel my sidewalk, driveway and walkway to the house.”
“Sure,” said Mr. Schwartz. “I’m not ready to shovel for a while.”
Mr. Weiss took the shovel into his house. “I need your help with the computer,” his wife greeted him. “I have to write a report, and the computer is not responding.”
It took a while to solve the problem, and then Mr. Weiss received a call from work. It wasn’t until 10 o’clock that he began shoveling.
The snow was hard and took a long time to shovel. Mr. Weiss was still shoveling an hour later when Mr. Schwartz called. “I’m ready to shovel now,” he said. “I’d like the shovel back.”
“I’m still using it,” said Mr. Weiss. “I did the sidewalk and walkway, but need another hour to clear the driveway.”
“How could that be?” exclaimed Mr. Schwartz. “You took the shovel three hours ago!”
“I got delayed with the computer and work,” explained Mr. Weiss. “In addition, the snow is hard and it’s taking longer than I expected. I’d like to finish, because I need the car soon.”
“It’s also not convenient for me later,” said Mr. Schwartz. “It’s my shovel. I’m happy to lend it, but not when I need it.”
“I told you that I needed to shovel the sidewalk, driveway and walkway,” said Mr. Weiss. “I must get my car out!”
“I happen to be with Rabbi Dayan,” said Mr. Schwartz. “Let me ask him.”
“OK,” said Mr. Weiss. “Tell me what he says.”
“I lent Mr. Weiss my shovel this morning to clear his sidewalk, driveway and walkway,” Mr. Schwartz said to Rabbi Dayan. “He got delayed in starting and it’s taking a long time, but I need my shovel back. Can I demand that he return it immediately?”
“Borrowing an item is a mutual commitment, just like renting an item,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Once the borrower takes possession of the borrowed item, he accepts responsibility for it, and, conversely, acquires rights to use it for the duration of the loan. Therefore, if the item was borrowed for a set time, the owner has no right to demand it back earlier” (C.M. 341:1).
“What if there was no set time?” asked Mr. Schwartz.
“The Tosefta (B.M. 8:11) teaches that if a person borrowed a garment for a certain occasion, such as a wedding, he is entitled to use it for the duration of the event,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Similarly, the Gemara (B.M. 103a) teaches that if one borrowed an item for a certain task, such as a shovel to dig a field, he is entitled to use it until he completes the task” (C.M. 341:2, 5).
“That’s fine if the task takes a long time,” objected Mr. Schwartz, “but Mr. Weiss delayed in starting. Had he begun promptly, he would have finished by now!”
“Sma (341:14) explains that although Shulchan Aruch already ruled that the lender cannot demand the item back before the set time, this halachah teaches that the lender cannot say that he did not expect the borrower to delay so long with this task,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “One could interpret this simply that the task took longer than expected, so the borrower is entitled to use the item for as long as it takes” (Pischei Choshen, Pikadon 9:5).
“However, Aruch Hashulchan (C.M. 341:7) understands Sma to mean that the borrower delayed in beginning the task; even so, the owner cannot demand his item back until the borrower finishes,” continued Rabbi Dayan. “Nonetheless, he writes that the borrower cannot delay excessively, and that beis din should determine what is a reasonable delay.”
“Thus,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “if Mr. Weiss did not delay excessively, he can continue using the shovel until he finishes.”
From the BHI HotlineMust I Buy Sefarim?
Q: At my bar mitzvah, someone handed me an envelope and said, “I didn’t know which sefer would interest you, so I’m giving you money and you choose the sefarim.” Am I obligated to buy sefarim with that money, or can I use it for something else?
A: Sefer Chassidim (866, cited in Ba’eir Heiteiv, O. C. 242:1) writes that if someone sends food to another person and specifies that it is for Shabbos, he may not eat it on a weekday. We presume that when someone expresses clearly that he wants his gift to be used for kvod Shabbos, it is a condition that he wants kept, and it is therefore forbidden to go against his express wishes.
There is in fact a dispute between Tana’im whether a person who utilizes an object for a purpose other than that intended by its owner is considered a thief. One application cited in the Gemara (B. M. 78b) relates to someone who collected money for poor people to use for their Purim seudah. Can a recipient use those funds for something else? Rav Meir holds that he may use it only for the Purim seudah, but Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel argues that he may use it for other things. The Tur (O. C. 694) rules according to Rav Meir, but the Shulchan Aruch rules according to Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel (ibid., se’if 2).
The Mishnah Berurah (242:4) writes that the Sefer Chassidim’s ruling regarding Shabbos food is dependent on how we rule regarding the Purim funds, so the Tur would rule that it may not be eaten during the week, and the Shulchan Aruch would rule that it may. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (242:8) writes that the Sefer Chassidim did not rule that it is prohibited to eat food sent for Shabbos during the week, but rather that it is middas chassidus (pious) not to do so.
The Chavos Ya’ir (232) writes, however, that even Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel agrees that one should not use Purim funds for other purposes. The point of contention is whether misappropriating those funds constitutes theft. But in another case cited in the Gemara (B. M. 78b), in which a pauper is given money to buy one type of clothing, and he wants to use it for another type of clothing, he may use it for that purpose even l’chat’chilah, because there is no reason to believe that the donor insisted on the use he specified. The Chavos Ya’ir therefore rules, in accordance with the Sefer Chassidim, that food sent lichvod Shabbos cannot be eaten during the week, because we assume that the sender wanted it to be used for the mitzvah of kvod Shabbos.
The Chavos Ya’ir deliberates what the halachah would be if a wealthy person pledged to send money for Kiddush wine to a relative who is a talmid chacham each Erev Shabbos, but the recipient prefers to purchase wine for Kiddush with his own money (as ideally one should purchase mitzvah items himself rather than use something received for free). May he use the money he received from his wealthy relative for Shabbos food other than wine? The Chavos Ya’ir writes that according to the Tur, he may not use those funds for any other purpose, because Kiddush is a mitzvah d’Oraisa, while other Shabbos foods are only d’Rabbanan, and it is possible that the donor earmarked his money only for the d’Oraisa. According to the Shulchan Aruch, however, it would be permissible for him to use the money for other purposes.
The Chavos Ya’ir concludes, however, that even according to the stringent opinions, if someone sent money to a talmid chacham and said, “Use it to buy wine or fish for Shabbos or Yom Tov,” in order to give the gift graciously without making the recipient feel needy, there is no reason to believe that he earmarked the money for Shabbos food, and the recipient may use it for other purchases.
When people give money as a bar mitzvah gift, they are generally not deliberately earmarking their money for sefarim. “Buy sefarim with it” is just a common refrain that makes the act of handing over the money more gracious. The giver knows it’s likely that the boy might forget or be negligent in how he uses the money, and if he truly wanted it to be used for sefarim, he would have bought sefarim and presented them to him, or given him a gift certificate to a sefarim store. Since we can assume that the statement “Buy sefarim with it” was not deliberate, the bar mitzvah boy may use the money for other things.
If there is reason to believe that the giver was deliberate in earmarking the funds, such as if he named the sefer he would like the bachur to buy —and especially if he said, “I will share the merit of your learning from the sefarim” — the bar mitzvah boy must use the money for sefarim, according to the Chavos Ya’ir (cf. Shevus Yaakov 1:77).
Q: Are copyright laws halachically binding on account of dina d’malchusa?
A: Rema (C.M. 369:11) writes that dina d’malchusa applies to governmental issues or those for societal benefit. Therefore, since copyright laws are for societal benefit, many authorities maintain that they are binding on account of dina d’malchusa, certainly in light of their widespread acceptance.
For example, Rav Moshe Halberstam, zt”l, writes that a law for the benefit of a profession that does not contradict Torah law, that fairness requires (“v’asisa hayashar v’hatov”), and that is a set rule of dina d’malchusa, is binding even in Eretz Yisrael (cited in Mishnas Zechuyos Hayotzer, p. 121).