Shabbat Parashat Acharei Mot Kedoshim| 5770
P’ninat Mishpat: A Kibbutz Member’s Unauthorized Use of an Enrichment Course Fund
(condensed from an unpublished p’sak din of Eretz Hemdah, Yerushalayim)
Case: A kibbutz member (=def) served as a teacher at the kibbutz (=pl). Over the years, money was taken from her salary, as required in
Ruling: The language of the charter of the kibbutz, which is signed by all members, determines what rules should govern their relationships. This is because all partners are bound to agreements as to how they are to share assets (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 176:5). The charter’s language is clear that all income related to work goes to the kibbutz and other salary-deducted funds, such as pension, are always shared with the kibbutz. The enrichment fund is not an exception to the rule, considering that the money invested in it can be refunded at the time of retirement and used for anything.
The possibility that other people abuse the rules and get away with it does not mean that rules are not to be kept. Only if it is standard that people in the first place uniformly ignore a certain rule would we say that that rule is not meant to be kept. However, when people mainly keep all the rules and the question is just about inconsistency in enforcement, that is a social problem, not a legal one.
Although pl felt (logically) that it is a dangerous precedent to consider authorizing expenditures retroactively, they agreed to do so beyond the letter of the law. At the end, they did not authorize any of the use of the funds, a decision that beit din will not overrule. Beit din, though, embraces pl’s agreement to have an outside body, such as an umbrella organization of kibbutzim, look into the claims of improper handling of kibbutz affairs, in response to def’s serious charges.
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