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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo 5778

P'ninat Mishpat: Taking Part in Financing Road Building part II

(based on ruling 77006 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: In 2015, the defendants (=def) obtained an extra-large plot of land on which to build their home. In 2016, some of def's neighbors petitioned their yishuv for financing for a temporary road to their section of the yishuv, but they were only able to receive partial financing. With the guidance of a rav, it was decided that the organizers (=pl) would levy a tax on members of the neighborhood to cover expenses. Pl have decided that def should be taxed like two households, since they built their home on two adjacent plots of land, just as def signed an agreement with the yishuv to pay double for infrastructure charges for electricity and water. Their contract also says that they have received two plots. Def argues that they received only one big plot, like many others in the yishuv, and that they paid extra for infrastructure and signed the contract as written only to avoid machloket with the yishuv. Furthermore, def argues that pl, consisting of only half the residents of the area, do not have authority to obligate neighbors to pay and that indeed only the yishuv as a unit can do so.


Ruling: Last week we saw that pl has the authority to obligate def to take part in financing the road. We now have to see whether they have to pay like the owner of one or two plots of land.

Def produced an email in which they ask for a “bigger plot” (singular), but they signed a contract that says that they acknowledged receiving two plots. It stipulated that they would have to pay double for various things unless it was decided otherwise at a yishuv general meeting. However, that is not a sign that there is a question as to whether they received two plots but rather the question is how a single family with two plots has to pay. Def’s claim that they were forced into signing the agreement is not relevant because even if they were under pressure, they still accepted its provisions, which is the important thing (see Bava Batra 47b). Additionally, the regional council who de facto has authority like a municipality, views def’s land as two plots.

As far as figuring out how much payment is appropriate, the key is the amount of benefit the homeowner can expect to get from the project (see Tosefta, Bava Metzia 11:9). In this case, the larger area, which, beyond the size of the house, also allows for more planting and agricultural-related activity, creates an expectation of more use of the road. In any case, the inhabitants have a right to estimate benefit as they see fit, as long as it is reasonable.

As far as whether there is a majority, three out of six are suing def and two are abstaining but have requested of beit din to decide. It is thus considered that there is a majority. Additionally, there are several indications that the minhag in yishuvim is that people do pay according to the number of plots of land. Therefore, we confirm the obligation of def to pay a double portion for the expense of the road.
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