In this week’s Torah portion the Torah discusses the prohibition of theft (Shmos 22,3)

How would you answer the following true story that deals with a form of theft?

In Israel there is a custom for many Jews to drive to the city of Meron on Lag Baomer. Shimon owed a private bus service and posted flyers all around town advertising rides from Yerushalayim to Meron for 60 shekel, leaving at 9AM on Sunday in front of Angel’s bakery. Shimon spent around 200 shekel for all of the flyers.

Natan also owed a private bus. On Sunday, Natan pulled up in front of Angel’s bakery at 8:50 AM, where many people had already been waiting. “I’m here for a ride to Meron he called out”. Anybody interested?” All of the people who were waiting boarded his bus.

At 9 AM Shimon pulled up, and to his dismay, only one passenger climbed aboard.

“Where is everyone else” Shimon asked. He was told that another bus had just left a few minutes ago.

After some investigation Shimon was able to locate Natan. Shimon demanded that Natan pay him for all of the customers that he stole, or at the very least pay him for all of the advertising that he paid for.

Natan countered that Shimon did not own the customers. “I simply drove by and asked people if they would be interested in a ride to Meron. They joined my bus using their own free will”.

Did Natan do the wrong thing? Does he owe Shimon anything? Does he have to give Shimon all of his profits? Should he have to pay for all of Shimon’s advertising?

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