Tuesday, March 02, 2010

On Purim & Bus Fares

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

It once happened that an individual from Bnei Brak had gotten himself quite intoxicated one Purim.[1] At the conclusion of Purim in his city, he decided that he would head into Jerusalem, where Purim is observed one day later than everywhere else, to enjoy yet another twenty-four hours of Purim festivities. This individual boarded a bus destined for Jerusalem, sat himself down at the back of the bus, and fell asleep.

Click here to read moreUpon awakening from his sleep he noticed that he found himself at the very spot where had boarded the bus some two hours ago! He quickly realized that he had fallen asleep for the entire journey - there and back. This individual, however, was then bothered by a halachic matter: Although he had paid the required fare upon boarding the bus for the ride into Jerusalem, he was wondering if he was now obligated to pay the bus fare for his accidental return trip back to Bnei Brak.

The answer he was given to his halachic query was that yes, he was obligated to pay the bus fare for the return trip from Jerusalem even though the ride was unintentional. This is because that while his journey was unintended, he nevertheless took up space on the bus which could have theoretically been sold to another passenger. Indeed, very often when people notice that there are no more places to sit on a bus they will opt to wait for the next bus. As such, his presence on the bus is subject to payment even if space was not an issue in this particular instance.

In a somewhat similar, though more frightening scenario, there was once an individual who was waiting for a bus in order to travel to Jerusalem. He was also taking along an expensive and fragile parcel. When the bus arrived the fellow decided to place his parcel in the baggage compartment on the bottom of the bus. In order to properly position the parcel so that it not be damaged on the way to Jerusalem, this fellow actually entered the baggage compartment in order to do so. The bus driver, not realizing that there was still somebody in the baggage compartment, closed the doors of the baggage compartment and this person was stuck there for the entire length of the journey to Jerusalem.

Although he arrived to Jerusalem scared and shaken up by having been locked in the baggage compartment, he nevertheless went and inquired whether or not he was obligated to pay the bus fare for journey. He was told that he was not obligated to pay for the journey due to the extreme hardship and suffering that he was made to endure. Since a person would never pay to travel in such a manner nor would most people even accept payment to volunteer for such a thing – the person was completely exempt from having to pay for the journey.


[1] This post is based on Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein's "Veha'rev Na", Parshat Masei

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