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Shabbat Parashat Chukat 5780

P'ninat Mishpat: Paying Community Taxes part III

(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, which expanded by building a section for non-kibbutz members. The defendants (=def) bought a home in the expansion and signed the standard forms obligating themselves to the rules, including paying aguda taxes. Pl’s main claim is about outstanding payments that def is claimed to owe pl. Def’s main responses are that he should not be bound by the agreement with pl because several of its provisions are mekape’ach (unfair or discriminatory), because he is not a member of pl, and because he paid in an alternative manner. Def also countersued for overcharging and for being turned down for benefits coming to him. [We will specify more specific claims as we deal with them.]   


Ruling: Def has two complaints about the running of pl. One is that members of the kibbutz are exempt from paying some of the dues that members of the extension are obligated to pay. While pl explains that this is because kibbutz members established the infrastructure of the kibbutz from which all benefit, def claim that the fact that new members of the kibbutz are also exempt shows that this arrangement is discriminatory and therefore a portion of their payments are improper. Beit din accepts pl’s explanation. It is standard practice for established communities that expand to exempt the founders of the community, who agreed to the expansion, from certain payments. The fact that they worked and paid for the kibbutz over the years makes it understandable and not discriminatory. New members of the kibbutz pay in their own way to receive the status that the founders have, and it is reasonable that members of the extension do not deserve such privileges.

Def is countersuing for 2,000 shekels, which as a member of pl, he deserves from the proceeds of five years of rental of a public building to a family. 2,000 shekels corresponds to the percentage coming to him (and likewise to others). Beit din rejects this claim. It is possible that the board of pl is not doing a good job of handling the joint funds and properties. However, such organs have a hierarchy through which it is possible to ask questions, complain, and even lodge formal complaints at meetings of pl. Only when all of the internal steps have been taken without a reasonable response is it appropriate to take the matter to an external judicial body such as a beit din. Since this was not done, beit din will not look into the merits of the specific claim of misuse of property [in a manner which affects every other member of the community as it does def].  

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