Question:

Just over a year ago, we were told that the machsan we were using did not belong to us, so we switched to a different machsan, which the vaad habayit “thinks” is ours (there are no numbers on the machsanim and nobody is actually sure which one belongs to whom). We were told that whatever was left in the machsan was hefkerand we could either keep it or throw it away. On that basis, we threw away quite a few items (mostly broken fans, torn suitcases, etc). However, there were a number of sukkah walls that we put to the side. Given the quality of the walls, I thought the owners would surely return to collect them, so I didn’t use them last year. I wasn’t sure if they were really hefker. However, they have been sitting there all this time and nobody has come to collect them. Instead of investing in a new sukkah this year, would I be allowed to use these walls and claim them as my own for future years?


(follow-up)

One thing that I didn’t mention in my previous letter is that the walls were stored in a locked area leading to the machsanim. That is, there is one locked door leading to a hallway, and the doors to the individual machsanim are accessed from the hallway. The walls were stored in this semi-public area, i.e., locked to non-residents. Does this change the ruling at all?

Answer:

On what basis did the vaad habayit tell you the stuff inside was hefker? They are not even sure whose machsan it is. The person in charge of the vaad habayit is generally not given authority over items in other people’s machsanim. The head of the vaadhas only as much authority as was given to him. Even all the members together cannot decide to make someone else’s property hefker.

These walls surely belong to someone. Using stolen walls for a sukkah makes it pasul. You could not make a berocho in such a sukkah or eat a seuda in it. ((עביה”ל תרל”ז ד”ה ואם, וז”ל ודע דהא דאסרינן סוכה גזולה, לאו דוקא אם הסכך היה גזול, דה”ה לענין הדפנות (פמ”ג, וכ”כ בבכורי יעקב). ובעוונותינו הרבים הרבה אנשים אין נזהרין בזה, שלוקחין קרשים שלא מדעת בעליהן להעמיד בהם דפנות וכונתן להחזיר תיכף אחר סוכות, אבל באמת אין יוצאין בזה, שעל כל פנים משתמש עכשו בהן בגזלה, ואסור לברך על סוכה כזו עכ”ל. ומ”ש הביה”ל דהפמ”ג והביכורי יעקב הם בדעה אחת לעני”ז, לכאורה אי”ז מדוייק, דבמ”ז תרל”ז סק”ד כתב דפסולו מה”ת מדין גזולה (וכ”ד המנ”ח שכ”ה) כמו שגזול פסול בסכך, אבל בביכורי יעקב תרל”ז ס”ק י”א מבואר דפסולו משום מצוה הבאה בעבירה ומדרבנן, ובשעה”ד כשאין סוכה אחרת שריא ומ”מ לא יברך, ועוד נפק”מ ביניהם לענין אחרים, דאת”ל דפסולו מה”ת מדין גזול גם אחרים אינם יכולים לישב שם אבל אם הוא מדין מה”ב והם לא גזלו ליכא פסול מה”ב לאחר יאוש. (וגם המגיה בביכורי יעקב לא עמד ע”ז, שעל דברי הביכורי יעקב שפסל משום מה”ב כתב בעיטורי משה סק”ט וכ”כ בפמ”ג מ”ז סק”ד, וגם זה אינו מדוייק, דהמ”ז לא הזכיר מה”ב בעבירה כלל, אלא הוי פסול משום גזול כסכך).

ואע”פ דשאר פסולים נאמרו בסכך ולא בדפנות, כבר ביאר בחי’ הגר”ח (בענין עצי סוכה אות ס”ד) דגזול פסול בקיום המצוה, שלא לקיים המצוה בסוכה גזולה, וממילא כל דבר שצריך לקיום המצוה, כגון הדפנות, בכלל פסול גזול. משא”כ שאר פסולים כגון דבר המקבל טומאה הוי פסול בגוף הסוכה, וממילא אינו פוסל אלא בסכך. וביאור דבריו נראה דגזל הוי פסול בגברא (שהאדם אינו יכול לקיים המצוה בגזול) ושאר פסולים הוו פסול בחפצא (שגוף חפצא דסוכה אינו יכול להיות מדבר המקבל טומאה), והבן. ע”ש שהוכיח דבריו. ))

You do not have to be a shomer of someone else’s property against your will; you can remove it from your machsan. Based on the way you presented the story, however, I think you should first ascertain that this machsan doesn’t belong to someone else. Perhaps another person owns property in the building and put his sukkah walls in his machsan. The head of the vaad habayit then may have reassigned the machsanim without any real authority to do so.

If you are sure the machsan is yours, then you are not required to be a shomer of the other person’s property. Although it belongs to someone else, you can take it out of your machsan and place it on public property, even if it may be stolen. That is not your concern. In this situation, since you do not know who owns it and you have no way of ever finding out, you do not have to notify anyone that you are putting it somewhere that makes it vulnerable to being stolen. If you have reason to suspect that it may belong to a previous resident of your apartment, if possible, you should notify them. However, you cannot take the walls because you know they belong to someone else. You cannot advise anybody else to take them either, since that would be advising someone to steal.


Since the walls are not in your machsan at all, I don’t see why they have anything to do with you more than the other people in the building.

If you are certain that none of the people who have permission to use the hallway are keeping the sukkah walls for the owner of the walls, and all the residents of the building want the sukkah walls off their property, you can remove them and place them on the street. These principles have already been discussed in “The Left Ladder,” (click to view) .

An area that is jointly owned by all the residents may be subject to internal vaad habayit rules that have previously been approved by a majority of the eligible voters. You can check the minutes of past vaad habayit meetings to determine whether it is sufficient to garner a majority of eligible voters to remove the walls from the jointly owned area.

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