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Shabbat Parashat Acharei Mot Kedoshim| 5770

Pninat Mishpat: A Kibbutz Members 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(condensed from an unpublished p’sak din of Eretz Hemdah, Yerushalayim)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 Israel, for an enrichment program fund, whose main intention is to pay for extra classes teachers may take. After many years, def redeemed the fund, thereby receiving 42,000 shekels, without informing pl. Pl demands that the money be transferred to it, as all kibbutz members must pass on their earnings to the kibbutz. Def claims that enrichment funds are different because they are a way to improve its holder as a teacher, not to improve his or her financial situation. In this case, the kibbutz, for whom she worked, was the beneficiary of her improved teaching. She provided receipts of spending on courses (some of which pl disputed) of more than 42,000 shekels. Pl argued that def needed to have these courses approved by the kibbutz. Def responded that she refrained from doing so because her family had a bad relationship with pl’s previous secretary, which caused them to be consistently discriminated against in kibbutz decisions. Def claims that other kibbutz members also took liberties against official rules and were not dealt with as harshly as def, showing that implementation is unfair, and thus she should be allowed to keep the properly used funds retroactively, despite violating the rules about reporting taking part in the courses.


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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This week’s Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R' Meir ben
Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld

Hemdat Yamim is endowed by
Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker and
Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.


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