Can You Reuse An Unpunched Ticket?


Photo Credit: Jewish Press

“I have an extra, unused ticket,” Eli said one morning to his friend Chaim as they were about to board the LIRR. “Are you interested in buying it for the way home?”

“Sure, thank you,” said Chaim. “It will save me time at the station.”


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Chaim boarded the train that afternoon with the ticket. The train was very crowded, and the conductor hadn’t yet come through his car by the time Chaim reached his destination.”

The following morning, Chaim met Eli at shul. “The conductor never wound up punching my ticket,” Chaim said, “so take it. You can still use it.”

“I’m not sure I can,” replied Eli. “Although it wasn’t punched, you made use of it. Using it again would be like stealing from the company. It’s like reusing a postage stamp that was not canceled.”

“Why?” asked Chaim. “If they don’t bother to come around collecting, that’s their problem. I would say LIRR was mochel the fare.”

The two decided to speak to Rabbi Dayan. After learning what happened, Rabbi Dayan said, “Mechilah doesn’t seem to play a role here. Mechilah requires a willingness to forgo and release the other party of liability. In this case, neither the company nor the conductor intended to allow Chaim to ride for free.

“What this case involves is a lost fare, and since there is no requirement of hashavas aveidah vis-à-vis a gentile when the mistake is his, you are not required to dispose of the ticket” [Choshen Mishpat 259:7; 266:1]

“This ticket is different than a postage stamp that was not canceled – for two reasons. First, a stamp attached to a letter is clearly payment for that letter. In contrast, your ticket isn’t associated with any particular ride. Second, it’s a federal crime to reuse a postage stamp that has already been used even if not physically canceled [U.S. Code, Title 18 § 1720], but there isn’t a similar crime for reusing a ticket. Thus, dina d’malchusa dina applies in the first instance but not in the latter.” [Choshen Mishpat 369:6,11]

“So Chaim can return the ticket to you if he hasn’t yet paid you. He did nothing wrong. Had he purposefully avoided getting his ticket punched by feigning sleep, for example, that would have been wrong and caused a chillul Hashem. But he didn’t. [Choshen Mishpat 348:2]

“I should mention, though,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “that the Chofetz Chaim was known for his impeccable integrity and for acting beyond the letter of the law, and he would tear a stamp when he sent a letter with a messenger, even though doing so was not halachically necessary.”


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