- Question: [Wednesday, 19th Adar, 5781]
Rabbi, I go to a Mikveh in which many people leave their shampoo and conditioner in the shower area openly available. If I forgot to bring my shampoo and conditioner am I allowed to use it without finding out who the owner is and asking permission, assuming that if they left it there they don’t really care if somebody else uses it. On that note, what would be the law regarding using peoples towels that they leave in the Mikveh. Is it allowed for one to use it without asking permission from the owner?
It is forbidden for you to use either the shampoo, conditioner, or towel without receiving explicit permission from the owner.
Explanation: There is a clear ruling in the Talmud and Poskim, that one who is Shoel Shelo Midaas, is a Gazlan. This means that somebody who borrows someone else’s item without his knowledge is considered a thief. The only time it is permitted to entertain using someone’s item without asking permission is if this item is an item that the entire world is not particular in other people using and borrowing without permission. An example of such items would be mitzvah items such as Tallis and tefillin, a Shofar and the like in which it is permitted for one to use without explicit permission because we assume that every Jew would be more than happy for someone to perform a Mitzvah with his object when there was no loss that will take place due to this use. However even in these cases certain restrictions have to be followed. Now, the emphasis of the allowance is because the entire world is not particular, however, if there even a minority of people who are particular that others do not use their item, then even if majority of people are not particular, it becomes forbidden for anyone to use anyone else’s item without asking explicit permission from the owner, as perhaps the owner is part of that minority group which is particular. Based on these rules it is clear that it is forbidden for one who enters a Mikveh to use other people shampoo and conditioner and towels without explicit permission, as there are certainly a minority of people which would be particular, and in all honesty, I would argue perhaps even majority.
Sources: Admur O.C. 14:13 and C.M. Metzia Upikadon 27 regarding borrowing Sefarim; Metzia Upikadon Halacha 4 regarding benefiting from lost object and taking fruit of friend; Gezeila Ugeneiva 10 regarding benefiting from stolen item; Sheila Vesichirus 5 that it goes without saying that this applies to other items of Reshus; Rama O.C. 14:4; Smeh C.M. 75:6; Nimukei Yosef Tzitzis 12a in name of Ritva; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 14:10