Ethics

For the week ending 17 November 2012 / 2 Kislev 5773

The 'Hitch' in Hitchhiking

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: A late night appointment in Jerusalem kept me in the city after the last intercity bus had left. I had no way of getting back to my home in Bnei Brak except for hitching a ride, a fairly common practice in Israel. As I stood waiting for what Israelis call a "tramp" at the informal "trampiada" hitching station at the exit of the city, a fellow hitchhiker rushed ahead of me to grab the ride in the car which stopped near me. Is this the right thing to do?

Answer: It all depends on what is the accepted custom at the particular site where hitchhikers wait for catch a ride. In his response to this question, Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, the rav of the Ramat Elchanan community in Beni Brak, distinguished between places where hitchers stand in line and where they each stand a short distance away from each other. Where there is a queue it may be assumed that the driver offering a lift did not have any individual in mind. It is therefore commonly assumed that the one who waited longest deserves first crack. But if there is no queue and the car stops in front of the "trampist" who arrived last, his acceptance of the offered ride cannot be challenged by those who arrived at the site earlier. It may well be that the driver decided for some reason that he was a more desirable passenger, or that it was the mazal of that particular hitcher that the car should stop in front of him.

It should be noted, however, that tragic situations have sometimes arisen from a lack of caution in regard to which rides to accept. So be careful that there is no hitch to your hitchhiking.

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