Thursday, June 13, 2013

Halachic Analysis: Stickering Cars – Is It Permitted?

Vos Iz Neias  posted with the permission of Rabbi Yair Hoffman

What should a shul do when do when a car blocks the flow of traffic in the shul parking lot?  A lot of shul leaders, of late, have taken to “stickering the car.”  These “stickers” are extraordinarily difficult to remove, but the rationale behind it is that the priver would prefer a sticker to being towed. 
What is the halacha here?

Before we get to the issue of the actual “stickering”, it must be noted that parking illegally is technically considered trespassing, which is a form of actual theft.

How do we define trespassing? From the perspective of American law, trespassing is the act of illegally going onto somebody else’s property without permission, which could just be a civil law tort (allowing the owner to sue for damages), or it could be a criminal matter.
What exactly is the halachic violation? The violation is actually that of stealing. The Talmud (Bava Basra 88a) records a debate between Rabbi Yehudah and the Sages as to whether borrowing an item without permission renders a person a gazlan, a thief, or whether he simply has the status of a borrower.

Rabbi Yehudah maintains that he does not have the halachic status of a thief, while the Sages maintain that he does. The Rif and the Rambam both rule in accordance with the Sages-that he is considered a thief. Indeed, this is also the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch in four different places (C.M. 292:1, 308:7, 359:5, 363:5).

Is the “considered a thief” designation applicable in all cases? Generally speaking, borrowing an item has a value associated with it.  In the case of trespassing, there may be no particular value per se in setting foot on the person’s property, or in parking improperly. While this may be the case, the Chazon Ish (B.K. 20:5) writes that the prohibition of sho’el shelo mida’as (one who borrows without permission) applies even when the item is not something that generally has a market value, and even if the value is less than that of a perutah.

How do we know that borrowing without permission also applies to being on someone’s land, or parking illegally? Maybe, it can be argued that in order to “borrow,” you have to physically take an object; here, you are just taking up space on someone’s land. [...]

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