[Avodah] Hasagat Gevul of a bus company

Daniel M. Israel dmi1 at cornell.edu
Tue Jan 8 22:33:28 PST 2013

On Jan 8, 2013, at 11:10 AM, Micha Berger <micha at aishdas.org> wrote:
> On Tue, Jan 08, 2013 at 09:35:30AM -0500, T613K at aol.com wrote:
> : I remember the famous story of the Chofetz Chaim, who supposedly tore up a  
> : postage stamp when he gave a letter to someone to deliver personally -- so 
> : that  the government wouldn't lose the money it was "owed."  I never 
> : understood  that story because if you didn't use the government's service, why
> : should you  have to pay the government anyway?  Is sending a letter with a 
> : friend some  kind of hasagas gevul issue vis-a-vis the United States postal 
> : service?  I  don't see it. 
> R' Menashe Klein (Mishnah Halakhos 6:288) holds that
> 1- When you get a letter where the stamp was not canceled, two
> dinim are involved:
> a- hashavas aveidas nachri, which is only mutar when it's a qiddush
>   hasheim, and only mandatory to avoid a chilul hasheim.
> b- Because the post office is part of the gov't, dina demalkhus applies.
>   So in RMK's case, one is porhibited from reusing the stamp.
> 2- In that teshuvah, RMK opines that tearing up the stamp isn't iqar hadin,
>   and the CC must have been acting specifically in order to create a
>   qiddush Hashem rather than anything related to Choshein Mishpat.

I never understood the story, either, and now I don't understand the psak.

As far as the letter where the stamp was not canceled, it is not clear to me why keeping it is failing to return an aveidah.  It seems more an issue of g'neivah.  I guess I see that it is less active then g'neivah (I didn't actively try to take the stamp), but the post office wouldn't have "lost" it if someone hadn't sent me the letter.  It just doesn't like like an aviedah to me.  Do we consider a store that gives too much change to be an issue of aveidah or g'neivah?  It seems like this is a very difficult line to draw, and we really risk permitting g'neivah because we call the cheifitz an aveidah instead of ill-gotten loot.

But, in any case, I don't see what this case has to do with the case of the CC.  In that case the post office didn't provide any service at all, and there was no obligation to use their service.  If I walk home, do I have to send the bus company a fare?  If my wife bakes her own challah, should I pay the baker?  I don't even see how this is warranted even lifinim mishuris hadin.

Daniel M. Israel
dmi1 at cornell.edu

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