Friday, August 24, 2012

Are You a Tzadik if You Fill Someone Else's Parking Meter?

The Jewish internet has been passing around this story about two tzadikkim - a chareidi youth and a parking meter checker who, well, read it yourself. See here for the original item.
I have a number of questions about the story:
1. Is it really illegal to fill the meter for others in Israel? I'll ask a policeman friend and let you know. From what I can tell, some municipalities outlawed the practice because it was eating into parking revenue, which the government counts on.
2. Let's assume that it is. How then is someone a tzaddik for breaking the law - even if it helps out someone else? Sure, you might have saved five people from a hundred shekel ticket. But that money has to come from somewhere. The city's budget isn't going to change, and if doesn't make the money from the expected ticket revenue, it's not hard to imagine where the money will come from. More likely is that the ticket taker has a quota, so instead of ticketing that row of cars, he'll just move to the next row. Which means that our tzaddik saved one group of people money, and cost others.
3.  Which leads to our ticket writer. He probably found the whole thing amusing. See #2.
4. Finally, as I've written before, Israel is quickly moving away from paper tickets and meters. Most locations don't even have meters anymore (you have to put a slip of paper on the dashboard). Also, many people are moving to automatic payments using their cellphones, and there's no way at all to tell if they've paid, unless you're connected to the police system.
So, in all likelihood, our tzaddik (if you can call him that) was probably wasting his money.


  1. First of all, point 2 is a grate example of how a chumra leads to a kula.
    But I don't think the story is true. I saw it several years ago and it occured in Toronto, then another time in San Francisco.
    I think it's not so much a statement on "how is he a tzaddik" and "what kind of idiot civil servant cares how the meter is filled just so long as it is".

  2. To Garnel's point: I think the point here was that the civil servant is really more interested in collecting ticket revenue than lesser meter revenue. So they want the guy's meter to expire.

    To the original question: one instance or application of ואהבת לרעך כמוך does not a tzaddik make.

  3. Parking meters are not just about raising municipal revenues, they are also designed to regulate parking availability. Why is paying the meter for someone else a good thing? What about all the people searching for parking spots that are not available because this guy removed the incentive (fines) keeping them from parking too long? What about all the business owners who are losing money because people can't find a place to park?

  4. I'm not sure I understand question number 4. So Israel is moving away from a "meter" system. But they still exist in many places. What's the problem?

  5. Yoni, my point is that someone who's parked at a meter, might have paid already using his or her phone. So, even though the meter reads empty, the spot is paid for, so the good samaritan is simply wasting money.


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