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Shabbat Parashat Shelach 5780

P'ninat Mishpat: Paying Community Taxes part I

(based on ruling 76111 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl) is an aguda (association) that developed in 2015 from a kibbutz association, which had built an expansion for non-kibbutz members. The defendants (=def) bought a home in the expansion before 2015 and signed the standard forms obligating themselves to the rules, including paying local taxes/fees. The main claim is about outstanding payments that def is claimed to owe pl. Def’s main responses are: they should not be bound by the agreement to pl because several of its provisions are mekape’ach (unfair or discriminatory); he is not a member of pl; and he paid in an alternative manner. They also countersued for being overcharged and having deserved benefits withheld. [We will specify these and other claims as we go.]   


Ruling: Def claim that they are not required to adjudicate in beit din because of the law that a chozeh achid (a “uniform” contract which one strong party pressures many weaker parties into signing) is not binding when it is mekape’ach. Beit din does not accept this claim, since there is nothing unfair about going to beit din. Arbitration is a viable alternative that many parties agree to, and the fact that the arbitration is in beit din does not make it unfair to any specific party.

Def claim that they are not members of pl, as the law does not require them to be, despite owning a home in its area, and therefore they are not bound by its provisions. Although they signed with the kibbutz association when they bought the property, that was before pl was founded. Pl responds that it is a legally founded continuation of the kibbutz association to include members of the extension who are not kibbutz members. The fact that def was a member of committees of pl is sufficient evidence that they know they are members. Def counters that they used to think they were members of pl, but after reading pl’s by-laws of eligibility for membership, they realized they cannot be. They also recently sent in a letter cancelling membership. Pl is correct that these claims are in bad faith. No one has questioned def’s membership, even if someone could have tried to disqualify them on a technicality, which pl is certainly not required to have accepted. The agreement also states that resignation from pl goes into effect only after six months pass and only after all debts to pl have been paid, neither of which have transpired.

Def showed payments they made to the kibbutz, which seem to be beyond what members were generally asked to pay. Beit din finds that pl’s attempt to explain them do not present a coherent picture. Therefore, pl is responsible to demand a refund of the money from the kibbutz, in which case, def is entitled to receive it from pl. If pl fails to receive the money or a valid explanation, def can sue the kibbutz for that money (the kibbutz is not a party to this adjudication).

We continue next time with other issues.

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