Street Vendors and Jaywalking
QUESTION 18: SHOULD YOU BELIEVE A STREET
VENDOR WHO CLAIM'S HE'S SELLING STOLEN GOODS?
Once I passed a table where a person was selling sweaters
for $3 a piece. I asked him how they could be so cheap,
and he said that they were stolen, how else could he
get them so cheap? How do I know if he's telling the
truth, or if he's lying just to make them seem like a
'better buy'? If he may be telling the truth, or if
I don't know if he's telling the truth, am I prohibited
from buying the sweaters? Should I ask beforehand how a
person got his goods if he's selling them at such low
prices, and how much credibility should I give to his answer?
RABBI BELSKY'S ANSWER
He's pulling your leg when he says that he stole them.
You asked, "How can they be so cheap?" He answered,
"Oh, they're stolen." He said that to make them seem
more attractive. You don't have to believe him.
QUESTION 19: ABOUT JAYWALKING
Is it permissible to jaywalk and to walk against a red
light even though it is technically illegal?
Some people claim that dina d'malchusa dina (the law
of the land), applies even to these issues. I think
it all depends. When the streets are empty and there
is no traffic -- for cars it is considered a major offense
to go through red lights even then. But for pedestrians,
I don't think the government is that concerned. But
when there's a lot of traffic, and people still walk
in the street, and it makes your heart skip to see
cars dodging the people, then it's a terrible thing to do.
Is that a legal issue, or some other issue?
It is a legal issue, but it's also a sakonah (danger)--
you're putting yourself in danger. The government has
a right to be concerned about things like this, and
you should be concerned as well.
NEXT WEEK'S QUESTION 20: HOW DOES ONE FACTOR IN THE
POSSIBILITY OF CHILLUL HASHEM (PROFANING HASHEM'S NAME)
WHEN THERE IS A SITUATION WHERE ONE SHOULD BE HONEST?
NEXT WEEEK'S QUESTION 21: RED LIGHT ON A DESERTED STREET
It is early in the morning, the streets are deserted,
and I am rushing in my car to catch a bus, a minute
away from missing it. When I'm a block away from the light,
the light turns yellow, and then when I'm 15 feet from the
light, it turns red. I look around and there are no cars or
people. There are two ways of looking at this moment: the
law is flexible, and I can go through the light because I
almost got through the intersection before the light turned
red, and there is no one around, and this is an emergency
situation since there won't be another bus for another
30 minutes. Or I can say this is a test to see how honest
I am, to see how much I can withstand the temptations of
dishonesty, because what is wrong is wrong and one who
trusts in Hashem would believe that no good can come from
going through a red light. What is the correct way to see
the situation, and what is the correct way to act?
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