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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 41 - Matchmaker Matchmaker - Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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Welcome to Fellow Weekly!

Encouraging intelligent and entertaining debate at your Shabbos table.

Fellow Weekly raises issues of business law and ethics through lively emails by featuring your real-life scenarios answered by our leading authorities and professionals.

CASE 142: Matchmaker, Matchmaker!

Leah Steinberg from Glenhazel, Johannesburg was not getting younger. Finding the suitable match was like looking for a sugar granule in a hedge of thorns. She worked hard to keep a positive attitude throughout this difficult and seemingly endless period of her life. Leah would capitalize on her quite moments alone to think of others in need, improve her character, and strengthen her faith. From time to time, she would reflect on how much she accomplished over six years of dating. . It seems that the challenges of life had made her in to a much more thoughtful, stronger and refined person. These precious moments would infuse her with courage to persevere and face her challenges with a smile and determination.

Leah's next-door neighbor, Kate Hellman, ran a free food pantry from her home on the corner of Mansion St. and Carron Rd. for the neighborhood's needy. Aaron Berger from Percelia Estates would volunteer on Monday afternoons for Kate. Aaron was a handsome able-bodied young man with a heart of gold. Kate knew Leah well and thought that Aaron would be a great match for Leah.

On February 5, 2006, Leah received a phone call from Mrs. Hellman. "I have something I think that you would enjoy, waiting for you in my pantry. Please, Leah meet me in the garage next Monday afternoon."

Aaron and Leah's dating experience was short lived. After three dates, both seemed uninterested in continuing. Life went back to normal.

Three years later, in the summer of 2009, Aaron decided to take a well-earned vacation to Israel. He bought an El Al ticket and counted the days for his visit to the Holy Land.

Aaron arrived at Johannesburg International Airport. He approached the El Al check in counter and asked for an aisle seat so as not to bother his neighbor should he need to stretch his legs. The flight attendant graciously offered Aaron the last available aisle seat.

Aaron boarded the plane, approached his seat and almost fainted. Sitting right next to him was none other than Leah Steinberg.

Today, Aaron and Leah Berger instill their happy marriage with all the fine qualities they developed over the years.

- As their initial matchmaker, do the Bergers have any financial responsibilities to remunerate Kate Hellman for having first brokered their match or do we let bygones be bygones?

What is the law?

Please email us with your comments and answers at

Read next week's issue for the answer!


CASE 141: Joy Friedman!

Dr. and Dr. Simcha and Joy Friedman were set on bringing the Purim spirit to the entire Sutton Place neighborhood this year.

They ordered dozens of mishloach manot packages from Manot Munchies for all of their neighbors and friends, to be delivered on Purim morning. Simcha and Joy wanted every Sutton Place resident to feel truly special and appreciated. With thoughtfulness, intuition, and humor, they ordered the packages to fit the needs, likes, and idiosyncrasies of each neighbor.

Mrs. Cohen, an elderly woman on the block, had suffered a great deal through the vicissitudes of life, which left her quite irritable. To say the least, her unfortunate demeanor provided a challenge to jovial side-by-side existence, and relationships between the neighbors had always been strained.

Simcha and Joy wanted to use Purim as an opportunity to make amends and turn over a new leaf. And so, they extended a special effort to order an extra large package suited for Mrs. Cohen. Three glass bottles of flavored seltzer water, 2 packages of wholegrain crackers, an array of exotic teas, a jar of honey, a cinnamon babka, coffee beans, licorice, and a row of apples, oranges, and star-fruit - all elegantly presented in an ornate magazine rack and wrapped up neatly in cellophane. They hoped to warm her heart with the feeling that she was loved.

On the other side of town lived attorneys David and Linda Green, Esq. The Greens' and Friedmans' good-humored relationship went back years, and one never knew what to expect in each other's mishloach manot packages. Under pressure from his wife, David had begun cutting down on his sugar intake for quite some time. However, Linda made it clear that she thought it reasonable for him to cheat a little on Purim.

Simcha and Joy decided to capitalize on David's new diet and ordered a mishloach manot package from Manot Munchies to suit.

The Purim festivities began and the Friedmans were expecting to receive a phone call from Mrs. Cohen expressing her appreciation for the generous and thoughtful package.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Cohen received a package at the door Pleasantly surprised, she opened the wrapping and her mouth dropped wide open. What nerve! ... a crystal pill case! She opened the case and her eyes beheld - one black jellybean for Sunday a gourmet chocolate chip for Monday, dried apple slices for Tuesday, a candied almond for Wednesday, Splenda for Thursday, a caramel popcorn for Friday, and for Saturday a note which read, Sweet Dreams from your doctors'.

Incensed, Mrs. Cohen threw down the crystal case, smashing it into smithereens.

At twelve noon, the Greens called. We are touched with the graciousness of your mishloach manot but fail to get this year's humor

Before Joy had time to explain, the phone rang on the other line. Joy glanced over to the second phone and saw Mrs. Cohen's number on the caller ID. Excitedly, she picked up the receiver and heard a deep and disturbed voice: Joy! I am not

Oh, Heavens!

No joys for Cohen, no grin for Friedman- because Cohen got Green's and the Greens have Cohen's! Someone made a grave mistake.

After Purim, the Friedmans phoned Manot Munchies and told them they intended to withhold payment due. They would happily pay for the bulk of the mishloach manot, but not for the two switched packages. Manot Munchies argued that the Friedmans should at least pay for the cost price of the goods.

- May the Friedmans withhold payment for the switched packages?

- Does Mrs. Cohen have any financial responsibility for breaking the pill case?

- May the Green family eat Mrs. Cohen's package?

What is the law?

[Submitted by: Mr. David Hess, Baltimore MD]

The Answer

We present you here with a concise ruling. For a more intricate elucidation, please see the detailed explanation below.

I. The Friedmans may withhold payment for the switched packages.

II. Mrs. Cohen is absolved from any financial responsibility for breaking the pill case. However, if it crossed her mind that the pill case was not meant for her, she would have to pay Munchies for the damages.

III. Since, the Greens learned that Manot Munchies inadvertently switched the packages, they may not eat Mrs. Cohen's parcel without consent from Manot Munchies. (see detailed explanation)

Detailed Explanation

Joy Friedman! implicates the following three laws:

I. A service provider who irresponsibly performs the wrong prescribed service, (and which does not benefit the employer in any way) may not demand payment for the services provided [Choshen Mishpat 306: 4-6].

II. One need not pay for damaging an article of which he or she rightfully assumes to maintain ownership. For example, A received an item from B as a gift and in turn destroyed it. In time, it became clear that the item never initially belonged to B. Instead, B stole it from C. A is absolved from paying C for the damages [Bava Kama 27b Tosafos, Yoreh Deah 177: Chavos Da'as 27]. (B must pay C.)

III. One may not take an item which belongs to a third party [Leviticus 19: 13].


I. The Friedmans hired Manot Munchies to perform multiple services - to pack and deliver specific packages to particular individuals. By switching Mrs. Cohen's package with the Greens', they failed to execute the prescribed order. Since, a service provider who irresponsibly fails to perform the prescribed service may not demand payment; the Friedmans are not required to pay for the two switched packages.

II. Although inappropriate [Deuteronomy 20: 19], one is obviously not liable for destroying his or her own belongings. Similarly, one is absolved from damaging an item he or she rightfully assumed to possess. Mrs. Cohen did not know that the pill case in fact belonged to a third party. She broke a pill case, which she responsibly thought had belonged to her. Since one need not pay for damaging an item he or she rightfully assumed to possess, Mrs. Cohen owes no one for breaking the pill case. Of course, if it did cross her mind that Munchies made a simple mistake, and indeed the pill case was not meant for her, she would be required to pay the supplier for breaking the case.

III. Having called the Friedmans and discovering that Manot Munchies had made a mistake, the Green's now know two things: a) that Friedman is absolved from paying for the merchandise, and b) that the package still belongs to Manot Munchies. Consequently, they may not eat the food without receiving express permission from Manot Munchies. Note: If it is obvious that Manot Munchies would prefer receiving payment for the cost of the goods, instead of receiving the package in return, the Greens may eat the food and pay for them later. [Choshen Mishpat 359:2]. (However, in such a case one might still be obligated to transfer the money to the owner via a third-party acquisition before the item may be used [Choshen Mishpat 359:2, Sha"ch 4] - a competent authority should be consulted to ascertain the details of such a procedure [see Hagahos Rabbi Akiva Eiger and Biur HaGr"a]). [see Issue 35]

[Answered by Rabbi Yitzchak Boehm and Rabbi Eli Marburger]


Although we aim to present the correct ruling, varying details are always important and decisively influence every individual case. Our readers are thus encouraged to present their personal cases to a competent authority and not solely rely on the information provided.

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