Tomorrow's Tiferet Torah
By: Rabbi Yechiel Elbaz
People often block my driveway and I once heard a rabbi liken this to stealing, as it unjustly takes from the time of a person who wants to get into and out of their driveway. If this is the case, would it be permissible to call the city to have a car blocking my driveway ticketed and possibly towed, even if I know it belongs to a fellow Jew?
Dear Parking Perplexed,
Unfortunately, your question is one which arises very often, and the answer is far from simple.This issue involves very sore feelings along with much frustration, and from a Torah point of view, it touches upon the prohibition of mesira – instigating a non-Jew to confiscate money or possessions from a fellow Jew, an especially grave Torah prohibition which could disqualify a person from a portion in the world to come (see Rambam,Hilchot Teshuvah 3, 12).
Though theoretically it may seem that in certain extreme and emergency situations it could be permissible to call 311 to have the offending car towed to prevent a loss to the homeowner, this is rarely practical. In the overwhelming majority of cases, it would take more time to have the vehicle ticketed and then towed, than it would to locate the vehicle owner or wait for him/her to return, rendering the ticketing and towing arrangements essentially an act of revenge - a well-known Torah prohibition. Additionally, due to the severity of mesira and the technicalities which differ circumstantially, each situation must be individually analyzed by a rabbi well versed in the laws of Hoshen Mishpat in order todetermineprecisely if, when, and how action may be implemented, before any measures may be taken.
Thus, in a real emergency, the most efficient solution would generally be to find alternate transportation.
Of course none of this should be construed to minimize the offense of the vehicle operator. In many if not the most cases, the driver is being highly inconsiderate at the very least, and perhaps even obnoxious. Even if the driver is trying to catch a minyan or perform another non-lifesaving deed, he must know that Hashemdespisesa missva which is enabled via a transgression (see Sukka 30a). In addition,Shelomo Hamelech tells us that “One who breaches a fenceand intrudes a boundary will be bitten by a snake” (Kohelet 10, 8). This metaphoric warning can alsobe applied to those who are careless about intruding on the boundaries of another person’s driveway.
To minimize instances where your driveway might be blocked, it might be advisable to ensure that the curb-cut in front of the driveway is clearly delineated. It may also help to park your car in front of the driveway, if there’s no danger of vandalism and clear arrangements are set up together with anyone else sharing it. In addition, it might sooth your feelings a bit during times of frustration to remember that the car owner’s gain will be very shortly lived, and the favor which he is assisting you to gain in the eyes of Hashem will remain with you forever in the world to come, as the Gemara tells us (Yoma 23a), “Those who absorb disgrace yet control themselves from retaliation, upon them the verse declares – ‘And Hashem’s beloved will emerge as the sun in its full splendor’.” The control which you practice will also help polish your character and social skills here in this world, while the distress will help atone for sins, as taught explicitly in the Gemara (Berachot 5a).
In the merit of your adherence to the Torah restrictions in this particularly difficult situation, may Hashembless you with much tranquility in all areas of life for many happy and healthy years to come.
Rabbi Yechiel Elbaz