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Hypothetical Cases for High School Students re: Jewish Law
& Ethics

Hypothetical Cases for High School Students re: Jewish Law & Ethics

© 2001 All rights reserved
Steven H. Resnicoff & The Aleph Institute

[For info on the original use of these cases, please click here. If you are an educator, interested in using these cases and would like to obtain reference materials pertinent to answering the questions raised in the cases, please contact via the feedback page. ]


Reuven is in the ninth grade and is about to take his final exam in math. He needs to get a 95 or better if he is going to get an "A" for the course. He really wants to get the "A," because his parents have promised that, if he gets it, they will buy him the new computer game he wants. Unfortunately, Reuven has not understood the most recent materials very well. Reuven happens to sit next to Shimon, the smartest boy in the class who aces all of his exams. May Reuven copy from Shimon during the exam? If not, identify all of the reasons why doing so would be wrong.
a. Does it matter if Shimon minds whether Reuven copies from him?

b. Does it matter if Reuven's teacher does not mind if Reuven copies from Shimon?

c. Does it matter if Reuven's teacher grades the exams "on a curve"?


Same facts as CASE ONE, EXCEPT that instead of copying from Shimon, Reuven tells his mother that he is sick and cannot go to school. He then asks his mother to write a note that he can bring to the school saying that he was sick and asking that he be able to make up any work, including his math test. This is Reuven's way of getting an extra day to study for the test. Explain whether Reuven did anything wrong.


Same facts as CASE ONE, EXCEPT that instead of copying from Shimon, Reuven, one day before the exam, "borrows" a copy of the exam from the teacher's desk, makes a photocopy of it and returns it fifteen minutes later. The night before the exam, Reuven studies the questions and finds answers to them. As a result he gets a 97 on the exam. If he had not enjoyed the benefit of seeing the exam in advance, however, Reuven would probably have gotten no better than a 78. Explain whether Reuven did anything wrong.


Reuven is in the eleventh grade in Los Angeles and is about to take the SAT test. He hopes to go to school at State College, and he knows that everyone accepted by State College who receives a score of 1400 is given a full tuition scholarship. Assume that the same SAT is given throughout the country and is given at 9:00 a.m., local time. Reuven has a brilliant friend, with a terrific memory, who goes to school in Baltimore and who has already taken and gotten 1600 on the SAT. Reuven asks his friend to sign up for the test again, to sit through the test for 2 1/2 hours, then to leave the test, call Reuven and tell Reuven the answers to the questions (or at least to the hard ones).

Explain whether anything is wrong with this plan.


When his father died, Reuven dropped out of high school in his senior year to get a job and help support his mother and siblings. Unfortunately, he soon discovered that many employers required applicants to have a high school degree. Reuven, believing that he was both smarter and more knowledgeable than most high school graduates (as evidenced by his performance on various standardized exams he had taken in high school) revised his resume to reflect that he had been graduated from high school and also asserted this fact on all future job applications. Has Reuven done anything wrong? Does it matter whether or not he has in fact obtained a job based on the employer's assumption that he was a high school graduate?


Reuven wants to apply for a driver's license. The application asks whether he has any of a long list of medical problems. One of the items is "epilepsy." Unfortunately, Reuven has epilepsy, and he is not sure whether answering the question will make him ineligible for the license. Consequently, he writes down "No" and submits the application. Explain whether Reuven has done anything wrong?
1. Would it matter if, instead of writing "no," Reuven wrote "N/A"?

2. Would it matter if, instead of writing "no," Reuven just checked a box that said "no"?

3. Would it matter if, instead of writing "no" or "N/A" Reuven just skipped the question?


Suppose someone did something "wrong" to C, even though it did not give rise to a financial obligation. C suspects that it must have been either A or B. In fact, B is the one who did the act, and A knows it. Suppose the teacher asks A, "Did you do this?"
a. May A say, "It wasn't me, it was B"?

b. May A say, "It wasn't me"?

c. May A say, "It was me"? Should he?


Same facts as in CASE SEVEN, but C is an elementary school teacher and A and B are his students.
a. Would your answers to "a," "b," or "c" of CASE SEVEN be any different?

b. Should C ask his other students to tell him who did the act?


Reuven was invited to Shimon's house to eat. Unfortunately, the cook had used much too much salt, and Reuven could not get himself to eat much. If Shimon asked Reuven why he wasn't eating and Reuven cannot avoid answering, should he tell the "truth" - i.e., that he did not eat because there was too much salt?


Reuven told Shimon, his closest friend, that he had just become engaged, but he asked Reuven to keep his engagement a complete secret, because he did not want anyone else to know yet. Later that day, Levi asked Shimon whether Reuven had become engaged. Assume that Shimon cannot avoid giving a straight answer. May Shimon tell Levi that Reuven had not become engaged?


Reuven lives in New York. Someone who looks Jewish comes up to him in the street and offers to sell him a new watch worth $1,000 for $300 cash. Reuven has been doing shopping for an expensive watch and thinks that he is a good judge of quality. He immediately falls in love with the watch he sees and is sure that, at $300, the watch is a steal. Is there anything wrong with his buying it?


Suppose Reuven Wealthy was just married, and he wants to find a house within a block from the Yeshiva. In fact, he wants one specific house, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Goldberg. Reuven calls Mr. Goldberg and asks whether he would be interested in selling his house, and Mr. Goldberg says "No, we're not selling." A day later, Reuven calls Mr. Goldberg again and says, "Listen, I know you told me you weren't selling, but just name a price." Again, Mr. Goldberg refused, saying, "It's not a question of price. We're just not interested in selling." Reuven's bride knows someone who is a good friend of Mrs. Goldberg and asks her if she could explain to the Goldbergs that they might benefit from selling the property to the Wealthy family. The friend agrees, but Mrs. Goldberg says that her husband does not want to sell. Has Reuven or his wife violated any Jewish law provision(s)? What if Reuven asks his friends, too, to speak to Mr. Goldberg, and they do, and, ultimately, the Goldbergs sell the house to Reuven for $185,000. The going rate for similar houses in the area was only $160,000. Has Reuven or his wife violated any Jewish law provision(s)?


Reuven and Shimon are new roommates at yeshiva. Reuven went away for Shabbat, and Shimon stayed at the Yeshiva. Sunday morning after Shahrit, it was raining pretty hard - interestingly, it was the first time it had rained all year at the Yeshiva - and Reuven was not yet back at the yeshiva. Shimon wanted to run out to the store to buy some nosh, but he didn't have an umbrella. Thinking that Reuven wouldn't mind, Shimon borrowed Reuven's umbrella and made the trip to the grocery.

When Shimon got back from the store, it was time for first seder, but he could not find his Gemara. Seeing Reuven's Gemara, and again assuming that Reuven would not mind, Shimon borrowed it to learn from.

When Reuven got back to the Yeshiva later on in the day, Shimon saw that Reuven had brought back homemade caramel popcorn, Shimon's very favorite nosh - and one that was very difficult to obtain. Shimon noticed that Reuven did not offer any of the caramel popcorn - or anything else - to him. But, as Reuven ate the nosh, Shimon made it his business to sit next to Reuven and to discuss the Gemara with him. When Reuven continued to eat, still without offering any to Shimon, Shimon asked, "Could I please have some of the caramel popcorn?"

Explain all of the things, if any, that Shimon has done wrong.


May one trick the telephone company? The following issue was posed to a Posek. Assume that when someone makes an operator-assisted call from Israel to the United States, the operator asks for the number from which he is calling in order to bill that phone. Assume also that the operator does not check to see if the phone is a private phone or a public phone. If so, may Reuven, who is in Israel, use a public phone to make a call to the United States, give the operator the number of the public phone from which he is calling, and then never pay for the call?

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