QUESTION 25: BROWSING MAGAZINES
Can you go to a magazine store and look at the magazines as
long as you want without the intention of buying one? If
you don't know the policy of the store, should you ask? Even
if others do it, is there a danger of chillul Hashem (desecration
of G-d's name)?
RABBI BELSKY'S ANSWER
There absolutely is. When I was a kid I used to walk past a
certain newsstand. I took a peek at the headlines -- just
the headlines. Every time I passed I took a peek. One day,
the owner came out, furious. "You never buy a paper," he
said, "you just look at my papers."
A magazine is worse, because there are no headlines, and
presumably a person is leafing through it.
A lot of people do that. There are magazine stores that are
crowded with people thumbing through magazines.
It's possible that the policy allows for this since the owner
is hopeful that a browser will come to buy a magazine. But
if a person knows for sure that he will not buy a magazine,
why should he be able to take advantage of this system?
It's not a free service.
The Talmud makes a point that is relevant here. In the times
of the Talmud, people used to do blood-letting for health
reasons. It was felt that after blood-letting, it is
important to drink wine; otherwise, the person is left in
a weak and unhealthy state. It is brought down that if a
person has done a blood-letting and sees that he doesn't
have wine available, he's permitted to take a beaten up coin,
one that may or may not be acceptable to a wine merchant,
and say, "I would like to buy a glass of wine." The merchant
will provide a sample. When the purchaser presents the coin,
the owner may decline it and say, "I'm sorry, we don't accept
coins like this." But by this time, the giver of the coin
has already imbibed enough wine to alleviate the problem.
But this advice is only permitted when a person is gravely
ill. Without such a condition it is not permissible to do
this. People often want to take things for nothing. This is
not a recommended way to go about life. Why should a person
want something for nothing? What's the point?
What happens if I ask one of the employees of the store, "Is
it all right if I just leaf through? I have no intention of
buying." And he says, "Go ahead." Does the employee have the
authority to grant me such permission?
The employee has the authority because he understands that
is the policy. But he feels that you are likely to buy. It's
the nature of people to buy. But some people just control
themselves and never buy. In that case, it's not right
By the way, if somebody is in that position - and he wants
to look through the magazines even with no intention of buying -
would it be better to put a baseball cap on his head so he
doesn't look Orthodox?
Or maybe he should get one of those Nixon masks people used
Seriously, if somebody does this should he put on a baseball
cap so he didn't look so religious?
Maybe. But he shouldn't do it anyway. When I go to a shul to
daven, I always put some tzedakoh in the pushke, something
substantial. Why? Because I am using the heat, or the air
conditioning. I use the siddurim, the benches; I benefit from
the janitorial help and the electricity. Why shouldn't I pay
for it? When you use something in the world, why shouldn't
you pay for it?
NEXT WEEK'S QUESTION 26: JOINING AAA AFTER FLAT
If one gets a flat tire and is not a member of the AAA,
can one call up the AAA, join, and then use their service
for towing, even though the flat tire occurred before
becoming a member?
NEXT WEEK'S QUESTION 27: WHITE LIE TO DAUGHTER
I bought a birthday present for my daughter, and was ready
to wrap it in order to surprise her, when she saw it and
asked me what it was. Is it OK to make up a story, saying
it's a present for someone else, so that I can surprise her
when we give it to her later? What if she suspects there
is a surprise birthday party, is it OK to lie about it to
her in order to try to keep it a surprise?
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