Is it stealing, or in any way unethical, to sit in on lectures at university that you aren't enrolled in (therefore aren't paying fees)? A lot of people do this and it's considered normal even for lecturers to allow it, which is true of some classes I would like to attend. I can't enroll formally because I have casual work at the moment, so I don't know what days I'm free. The lecturers and the department are fine with the idea, but I believe the university does have an auditing option, which is very expensive (aimed at retirees, I think, and I can't afford it). I just wonder whether sitting in on the classes is fine, since I wouldn't enroll anyway at this time, or whether it should be considered taking something without paying for it.

How about lecture recordings, if I don't attend the class but a friend records it and I listen? Do the recordings belong to the lecturers, who would give permission, or to their employer the university, who technically would probably ask me to enroll to audit if I asked?

Don't take into account the fact that I want to go to the classes :) Just whether objectively it's acceptable.

  • Interesting. I've never heard of auditing fees (my university didn't have that). That makes this question much more interesting. Especially if the instructors and departments don't really care.
    – Daniel
    Aug 4, 2013 at 13:06
  • 3
    The "practical conscience" part seems to be asking for opinions, which is not what we deal in.
    – Isaac Moses
    Aug 4, 2013 at 13:49
  • The university I attended didn't charge fees for current students or staff members but did for outsiders. Those fees were much lower than those for taking a class for credit, but they existed. I'd never before thought about whether informally auditing (and bypassing these fees) would be stealing from the university if the professor permits it. Interesting question! Aug 4, 2013 at 15:41
  • 6
    Hillel on the skylight, in Yoma 35? Aug 5, 2013 at 0:07
  • Okay, a couple of other things... I'm not currently enrolled at the uni, though I was last year and hope to be again next year. Also, I'm not Jewish, but I listen to Jewish opinions about what is ethical.
    – Annelise
    Aug 5, 2013 at 6:13

1 Answer 1


My brother told me he knows someone who asked Harav Herschel Welcher (Posek of Queens) about sneaking in to baseball games where tickets are sold (by non-Jews) and he replied that it would be permitted because of the general rule that זה נהנה וזה לא חסר (one party benefits while the other party loses nothing) isn't forbidden at all with non-Jews (I'm sure you'll find a lot of Torah discussion on this).

I can't see why it would be different here.

  • 2
    Was he mattir the chillul hashem too?
    – Double AA
    Aug 5, 2013 at 5:27
  • 1
    Does Ze Nehene VeZe Lo Chaser apply in a situation where if everyone did the act, no one would pay and there would be chaser? Aug 5, 2013 at 5:36
  • I agree with Shmuel's question... and I am interested also about how it works if the providers of the service might prefer for it not to happen.
    – Annelise
    Aug 5, 2013 at 6:21
  • @ShmuelBrin Similar to the Tragedy of the Commons. Also see the related teshuva from R' Moshe here
    – HodofHod
    Aug 5, 2013 at 8:05
  • This could be lashon hara about this "posek"
    – Yehoshua
    Aug 5, 2013 at 8:16

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