Monday, June 19, 2006
Halachos of carpool: schirus or not?
My wife got involved in a rather heated discussion in the comments section of another blog regarding the following scenario: a carpool driver was on the way to bring a bunch of first graders to school. En route, the driver passed a neighbor who had a broken leg and was painfully struggling to make a train and get to work. Should the driver pick up the neighbor and go a few minutes out of the way to bring them to the train at the cost of the kids being a few minutes late to school, or is getting the kids to school exactly on time (something one of the other carpool members obsessed over) the priority? My wife's view is that from the perspective of chinuch, the lesson of stopping to pick up the person outweighs getting the kids to school exactly on time. Her analogy was to a kohein gadol stopping to attend to a mes mitvah en route to bring the korban pesach . In other words, she was weighing one mitzvah against another and considering whether to employ the rule of osek b'mitzvah (of bringing the kids to school) patur min hamitzvah when efshar l'kayeim shneihem (machlokes rishonim). While practically I think the correct answer here is to pick up the neighbor, I formulated the issue very differently. It seems to me that car pool is a form of schirus, like 'nachesh imi v'anachesh imach' - you drive one day in exchange for the 'payment' of your friend driving tomorrow. There is an implied contract with tna'ei schirus involved. Osek b'mitzvah is a ptur from mitzvos, but not from financial obligations, i.e. you cannot tell your boss you are exempt from work because you have a mitzvah to do. In the case of carpool you are effectively contractually employed to drive the kids on your day in exchange for others driving the other days. The issue is a purely contractual debate: when people enter into the implied contract called carpool, does the agreement allow for a driver to deliberately delay getting the kids to school by a few minutes for the greater good of a gemilus chessed like picking up someone with a broken leg? I would hope so, otherwise that is not a good carpool to be in! Any other ideas on the parameters of how such an agreement works al pi din? Should a kinyan be required to set it up to begin with?