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    Using a car space – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. A store has a free carpark for its customers but others have got wind of it and park there, which makes it difficult for the people for whom it was intended. Is there a Jewish ethical rule about this?

    car parkA. The parking facility is an investment by the storekeeper who expects returns in the form of extra business. Outsiders who park there are guilty of stealing, either from the storekeeper or the store customers or both. Research would be needed, however, in order to quantify the dollars-and-cents value of what has been appropriated by others. At the very least the outsider has saved him/herself the cost of an on-street meter, if such could be found in that district.

    Rabbi YP Bodner writes in “Halachos of Other People’s Money” (published by Feldheim), “If a private parking lot has a sign restricting parking to customers, residents, employees, etc., it is prohibited for others to park there. If it is self-evident that the owner needs the lot for his customers it is prohibited to park there, even without a sign”. He has a footnote, “I heard from Rav Elyashiv that as long as the owners care about their parking lot, (a person who parks there without permission) breaks the law against stealing”.

    From the moral point of view, it seems that there has also been a transgression of the law of hassagat g’vul, trespassing on another’s territory (Deut. 19:14). The sages call such a transgressor a rasha. Rabbinic literature goes into detail about not intruding on other people’s rights, especially when their professional or business territory. There is a term, ma’arufia (possibly from Arabic, possibly from French) which was largely concerned with rights of trading with gentiles but was generally extended to cover the right to practise a craft or trade.

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