Cars – General Halachos

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Davening while Driving

Can you daven whilst driving?

  1. Back in the day, it was mutar to daven while riding a donkey. There was no need for a rider to dismount if the delay would disturb his concentration on davening (שו”ע או”ח צד ס”ד). Nowadays, though, one may not daven while driving since he needs to focus on where he is going and on what is happening on the road; not paying attention can lead, ch”v, to a truly dangerous situation. Thus, one should park his car at the side of the road and daven (הגרש”ז אויערבך, שלחן שלמה ס”א).
  2. Even if a person is in a place where he cannot stop, he may not daven while driving even if he will miss zman tefillah. He should daven the next tefillah twice if his situation is classified as an oneis.
  3. Tefillas Haderech. Lechatchila, one should stop at the side of the road to say Tefillas Haderech (שו”ע או”ח סי’ ק”י ס”ד ובמ”ב סקכ”ג). If possible, it is best to say it standing (ערוה”ש ס”א), e.g., on public transportation vehicles, or by stopping on the side of the road and standing outside the car if it is not dangerous to do so (כן ראינו נוהג מו”ר בעל קנה בשם). Nevertheless, if one cannot stop, he may say Tefillas Haderech while driving. Even the driver can say Tefillas Haderech while driving since it is a short tefillah, but it is better for someone else to be motzi him.

Informing of Damage One Caused

  • If a person drove into a parked vehicle and damaged it while the owner was not present and it is possible the vehicle belongs to a Jew, the damager must inform the owner that he caused him damage by leaving his name and number.
  • If this was in a neighborhood in Chutz La’aretz where the car’s owner is most likely not Jewish, the poskim argue whether a Jew must pay for the non-Jew’s damages. Some say a Jew who damages a non-Jew must pay. The posuk specifically excludes the case of a Jew’s ox goring a non-Jew’s ox, but a Jew is liable for other damages (חזו”א ב”ק סי’ י’ סקי”ד). Others say one is patur from paying all damages to a non-Jew, which is no worse than getting out of repaying a loan (מנ”ח). According to this, one is only patur if the non-Jew does not demand payment or if he can avoid him, but if the non-Jew demands payment, he is obligated to pay (מו”ר בפתחי חושן הל’ נזיקין פ”א הע’ א’).

Breaking Traffic Laws

  • The principle of dina d’malchusa dina does not apply to traffic laws, but one must protect himself from danger. Thus, even in places where dina d’malchusa does not apply, e.g., in Eretz Yisroel according to some, one must follow traffic laws enacted for safety, e.g., not running a red light, not driving under the influence of alcohol, and not speaking on the phone while driving (מו”ר בפתחי חושן הל’ גניבה פ”א הערה ד’).
  • Speeding. It is forbidden to speed. Speeding endangers the driver’s life and the lives of others. The act of speeding is a potential act of murder and suicide (שו”ת שבט הלוי ח”ו סי’ קי”ב אות א’ סק”ד).
  • If someone transgressed traffic laws while driving and as a result damaged another vehicle, he is liable. Whenever someone drives illegally, he has the halachic status of someone acting without permission, who the Shulchan Aruch (חו”מ סי’ שע”ח ס”ח) rules is liable for damages (פתחי חושן הל’ נזיקין פ”א הערה ע”א).
  • Passenger seat without a seatbelt. In Israel, the law is that if there is a passenger in a car without a seatbelt, the driver is responsible, and if stopped, he, not the passenger, is the one who will incur the fine. In such a scenario, the driver cannot force the passenger to pay the fine since he has to ensure the passenger buckles up. Even if he warned him and the passenger still did not buckle up, the passenger is still patur from paying because the driver should have stopped driving until the passenger buckled up (מו”ר פתחי חושן נזיקין פי”ב הע’ י”ב).

Leaving a Car in a Prohibited Zone

  1. Obstructing the street. According to halacha, one may not leave his car in a spot that obstructs the flow of traffic since doing so steals people’s time and minimizes the public space. Thus, one may not leave his car in a prohibited zone [e.g., by a red and white striped line in Israel or a yellow stripe in England] or double park since parking in such a way generally blocks traffic unless it is late at night and it will not bother anyone.
  2. Sidewalk. One may not leave his car on a sidewalk where people walk if doing so will limit the space people have to walk freely. This is similar to the issur cited in Shulchan Aruch (חו”מ סי’ תי”ז ס”ב) to leave rods projecting into the public airspace. At times, pedestrians have to walk in the street to get past a car on the sidewalk, sometimes with strollers and small children. A car owner who does this endangers lives in his meticulous fulfillment of “For my sake, the world was created.”

Using the Horn at Inappropriate Hours

  1. One may not honk his horn at an hour when people are sleeping, e.g., early in the morning or late at night, as doing so steals people’s sleep. This is true even if honking is the only way for a person to let someone else know he is waiting for him.

Drove through a Puddle, Caused Damage

  1. When it is raining or there is a puddle at the side of the road, drivers must be careful not to drive fast through a puddle so they don’t spray water on pedestrians. [If you have ever gotten sprayed like this from a car, you know the feeling.]
  2. If a car drove through a puddle and sprayed water on someone, causing damage or dirtying his clothes, the driver is liable for the damages, as driving a car through a puddle is a direct cause of the damage [aka, the driver’s “koach”], which one is liable for. Even though he was allowed to drive there, the pedestrian on the sidewalk was also allowed to be there (פתחי חושן הל’ נזיקין פ”ג הערה ט”ו).

Borrowing a Car

Returning a Car with Extra Gas

  1. Shailah. Someone borrowed a car from his friend with the tank half full of gas. Out of gratitude, the borrower wants to return the car with a full tank of gas. Is that mutar, or is returning more than he borrowed ribbis?
  2. Root of the shailah. In halacha, she’eilah is borrowing a certain item and returning that same item, whereas halva’ah is borrowing something like money or flour, using it, and replacing it with different money or flour. The issur of ribbis only applies to a halva’ah, not a she’eilah. Borrowing the car itself has the status of she’eilah, which ribbis does not apply to. However, we must consider how to view this case. Did two things happen, a she’eilah of the car and a halva’ah of half a tank of gas, in which case the issur of ribbis would apply to returning extra gas? Or perhaps we view the entire case as one action of borrowing a car – which happens to also have gas – without any sort of halva’ah of the gas. If this is the case, returning extra gas is not an issur of ribbis.
  3. Answer. We view this case as a single action: a she’eilah of a car, not a halva’ah. Thus, there is no issur of ribbis to return the car with extra gas.

Paying for Damages when the Owner Collects Insurance

  1. The Acharonim discuss the halacha in a case where someone borrowed a car from his friend and it got damaged. A borrower is liable even for damages he couldn’t have prevented, but in our case, the owner will be collecting money from insurance for the damages. Is the borrower patur from paying or does he still need to pay despite the fact that the owner can collect from the insurance company?
  2. Some poskim hold that the borrower can claim he did not cause any loss since the insurance company will pay for the damages; accordingly, the owner cannot extract money from the borrower (שו”ת הרי בשמים מהדו”ת סי’ רמ”ה). However, if collecting insurance will require the car owner to pay a higher rate, the borrower would have to pay the difference. Otherwise, the owner can tell him, “I won’t collect from insurance; you pay me for all the damages” (שו”ת מנח”י ח”ג סי’ קכ”ו). Some poskim require the borrower to pay at least the money the owner pays the insurance company (שו”ת קנין תורה ח”ב סי’ צ”ד).
  3. However, most poskim hold that we view the owner’s collection from insurance as a separate business deal he made with his own money: he pays a fee, and on the chance his car is damaged, he gets money back. But this does not exempt the borrower; he still must pay (או”ש פ”ז שכירות, שו”ת מהרש”ם ח”ד סי’ ז, שו”ת מנח”י ח”ב סי’ פח, מו”ר בפתחי חושן הל’ פקדון ושאלה פ”ח הע’ נה).

Car Rental

Received Car with More Than a Full Tank of Gas

  • Shailah. In general, when one rents a car from a rental company, he gets the car with a full tank of gas and must return it with the needle at the Full line. However, it is possible to either put in gas until the needle is exactly on the Full line or to completely fill the tank to the point that the car can drive a number of kilometers with the display still indicating a full tank. Someone asked, if he got a car with the gas filled to maximum capacity, do the halachos of Choshen Mishpat dictate that he return it filled to maximum capacity, or is he allowed to return it just to the Full line?
  • Answer. He may return the car with gas just to the Full line. The rental company will not gain from him adding gas; the next renter is the one who will benefit since he can also return it just to the Full line. That being the case, all a renter has to do is return the car with a tank that is full according to the rental company’s definition.

Not Paying for Shabbos

  • Shailah. Most rental companies in the Chareidi sector do not charge for Shabbos since the cars are not driven on Shabbos [the renter just needs to pay insurance]. Once, a person rented a car near his wife’s due date without paying for Shabbos, but in the end his wife needed to go to the hospital on Shabbos and he drove her in the rental car. Is he now required to pay for Shabbos as part of the rental?
  • Answer. Since he did use the car, he must pay for Shabbos as one of the days of the rental, included within the rest of the days [“הבלעה”]. Perhaps he only needs to pay for the benefit of one trip instead of the full rate for a day since for the rest of the day, he could not use the car because it was Shabbos.

Rented a Car, Thieves Broke the Window and Stole Items

  • Shailah. Someone rented a car from his friend. He took it to the Dead Sea, parked it in a deserted area, and locked it. When he came back from his hike, he saw that a thief had broken the window and stolen valuables. Is the renter liable to pay the owner for a new window?
  • Answer. The halacha is that a renter has the same level of accountability as a paid watchman, who is liable for theft/loss and patur from oneis (שו”ע חו”מ סי’ ש”ז ס”א). Thus, if the car would have been stolen, he would have had to pay for the theft (שו”ע חו”מ סי’ ש”ג ס”א). According to some poskim, he would have been patur since the theft itself was an oneis (ש”ך סק”ד, ביאור הגר”א). However, in this case the car was not stolen. It was just damaged and items from inside were stolen. From the borrower’s perspective, that is an oneis since he locked the car properly, as anyone would do after parking their car. Thus, the renter is patur from paying for the window according to all poskim since it falls in the category of oneis.

Renter May Not Rent or Lend It Out

  • A person who rented a car under his name may not rent or lend the car out to someone else without the owner’s permission (שו”ע חו”מ סי’ שמ”ב ס”א). It is only mutar if the other person is listed on the rental as a driver since in that case, the owner gave permission.
  • When it comes to most borrowed objects, the poskim say there is an assumption that the borrower’s wife and children may also use the object. However, that is not the case with respect to a car rental. Only people listed on the rental as drivers may drive the car.

Halachos of a Car on Shabbos

“Shevisas Keilim”

  • Renting a car to a non-Jew. A Jew who owns a car rental company may not rent a car to a non-Jew on Erev Shabbos (שו”ע או”ח סי’ רמ”ו ס”א) since it appears that the non-Jew is his messenger (מ”ב סק”א). However, he may rent a car out on Thursday or Wednesday as long as the payment is done as one inclusive sum (שו”ע שם). Nowadays that rental payments are often calculated in 24-hour periods from morning to morning, it is already considered that there is no payment specifically for Shabbos (פסקי תשובות סי’ ש”ו).
  • Renting a car to a secular Jew. If a person rented a car to a Jew who violates Shabbos, lo aleinu, but he does not know for sure that the renter will violate Shabbos with the car, there is no issur of לפני עור since לפני עור does not apply when it is not certain the person will do an aveirah (שו”ת שבט הלוי ח”ה סי’ מ”ב). But this is only on condition the rental company’s name does not appear on the car (שערים מצויינים בהלכה סי’ ע”ג סקי”א) and that the payment is made as one lump sum.
  • If it is known with certainty that he will violate Shabbos with the car, strictly speaking there are some heteirim to permit renting the car to him (פסקי תשובות סי’ רמ”ו אות ה’) but one should not follow these heteirim for multiple reasons (שם).
  • 2nd day Yom Tov. If a ben Chutz La’aretz rented a car under his name in Eretz Yisroel, his ben Eretz Yisroel son-in-law may use the rental car on the second day of Yom Tov [if he is also listed on the rental as a driver (see above, 27-28)]. Even though the rental is under the name of a ben Chutz La’aretz, this is not included in shevisas keilim [the obligation for a person to ensure his possessions do not do melachah on Shabbos].

Muktzeh Status of a Car

  • One may lean on a car on Shabbos to tie his shoes or to help himself cross the street. Leaning on a car generally does not cause it to move (ע”פ מ”ב סי’ ש”ח סקי”ז, ומ”ב סי’ ש”י סקכ”ב) and even if it does move a bit, moving a car with the body – as opposed to the hands – is mutar, as it is considered טלטול מן הצד (מ”ב סי’ רס”ה סק”י).
  • If a car is alarmed, one must make sure not to lean on it since even a light touch can sometimes activate the alarm, which is assur on Shabbos. Also, it will disturb the neighbors all Shabbos long…

Staying in a Car on Shabbos

  • It can happen that a person finds himself right before Shabbos without anywhere to stay. For example, someone once booked a hotel room in a place without a Jewish community, but when he got there, it turned out they did not have any open rooms. Or someone might be by the hospital when Shabbos comes in without anywhere to stay. This raises the question: may one stay in a car on Shabbos?
  • A car is a kli shemelachto l’issur. Hence, it may be moved for a permissible use or for the space it is in [לצורך גופו/מקומו] (שו”ע או”ח סי’ ש”ח ס”ג). Thus, a person in this situation should turn off the light that goes on when the door is opened and then he can stay in the car and open the doors throughout Shabbos. If he can put a blanket or pillow on the seat to show that he is sleeping in the car, that would be best as it avoids maris ayin (היכל הוראה ח”ד הוראה ל”ג).
  • A car’s only use is for issur and it has no permissible use. Even though some hold that something whose entire use is for issur does not have the heter to move it לצורך גופו/מקומו (חזו”א סי’ מ”ד סקי”ג), other poskim are meikel (מג”א סי’ ש”ח סקי”ח, שו”ע הרב שם סעיף פ”ה, שו”ת שבט הלוי ח”ג סי’ ל”ב). Thus, in a pressing situation, such as our case, there are certainly poskim to rely on.
  • Amira l’akum. If one is a pressing situation where he needs to open a car door on Shabbos and the light was not turned off before Shabbos, he may tell a non-Jew to open the door since the non-Jew’s intent is not to turn on the light; it is only to open the door, which is permissible. Even though it is a psik reisha, there is no issur of psik reisha for a non-Jew (שעה”צ סי’ רנ”ה סק”א, מ”ב סי’ רנ”ט סקכ”א ועוד מקומות).

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  1. Thank you Zerachaya

    1. Zerachya Shicker Author says:

      My pleasure!

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