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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 42 - No Kidding! - Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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6/18/10

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 143: No Kidding!

"It's clean up time. It's clean up time", sang Morah Helen Krieger with her twenty-five delightful preschoolers before the morning break.

Generally, Helen had a good handle on her four-year olds. Her young saplings would naturally gravitate to her charm and spunk. Keeping a momentum and order in the classroom was one of her strong points, which greatly enhanced her overall classroom management.

Today though, things seemed to be a little more challenging.

Shira and Dini were oblivious to all of the excitement around them. There they sat planted on the floor in the back of the doll corner for a half hour. With serious streaks across their cute little foreheads, their young imaginative minds carried them far over the rolling hills and across the rushing Mississippi, - miles away from their classroom in Seward Park, Seattle. In their own little world, they seemed to be wheeling and dealing and playing important roles in unfolding world events.

While the rest of the children continued cleaning up the toys, Helen tiptoed over to Shira and Dini's little world. It was not long before their little world became her big world... Shira and Dini were renting silver gowns and matching shoes for a wedding in New York.

Suddenly, Shira and Dini noticed Mrs. Krieger and turned to her with excitement in their eyes. Dini piped up. "Shira's mommy's brother Dani Lev and my mommy's sister Rina are getting married in New York..."

That night, Helen Krieger called up the two mommies and told them about the funny game that their children were playing that day.

In less than an hour, the two mommies were on the phone and off to work they went.

Four months later Shira and Dini cleaned up their toys and were off to rent silver gowns and matching shoes for the Lev wedding in New York.

Who receives the matchmaker's remuneration?

What is the law?

[Based on a true story]

Please email us with your comments and answers at weekly@projectfellow.org.

Read next week's issue for the answer!

LAST WEEK'S CASE

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?

The Answer

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

Aaron and Leah must remunerate Mrs. Hellman 1/3 of the matchmaker's going rate for initially having set them up, provided their original encounter played a role in their striking up serious conversation on the flight.

Detailed Explanation

To answer "Matchmaker, Matchmaker", it is important for us to:

A) Identify the basis of the time-honored custom to remunerate matchmakers for their work

B) Configure the value of the service Mrs. Hellman may have provided

C) Quantify the termination of the matchmaker's service.

A. Identification:

Typically, a matchmaker brings the bride and groom together by

1) The respective parties requesting the matchmaker's services, or

2) The matchmaker suggesting a prospective match and offering to render his or her services.

Thus, a matchmaker, [Choshen Mishpat 185: 6, Pischei Teshuva, 185:10] like any broker [Biur HaGra ibid. 13] or sales agent, can provide one of two categories of service:

1) Solicited work, or

2) Unsolicited work

We have noted in previous issues [See Issues 14, 19, 29, The Case of the Baffled Babysitter- Special Edition, 39] that one is generally required to pay for receiving benefit from an unsolicited service that he or she would otherwise have willingly paid a third party to perform.[Choshen Mishpat 375:1 (Note: See Issue 40 for a list of exceptions)]

To this date, people willingly hire matchmakers to assist them in their quest; consequently, the bride and groom must remunerate a matchmaker who initiated his or her services, just as they would owe anyone who provided them unsolicited work for which they would have been willing to pay.

The amount due for receiving matchmaking services is, like all employment rates, subjective to the custom of the local society [Choshen Mishpat 333:1].

B. Configuration:

Like a real estate agent, the job of a matchmaker can be multifaceted:

1) To introduce the parties

2) To aid in negotiations

3) To ensure the prospective relationship materializes [Pischei Teshuva, 185: 10]

Should the relationship materialize, each facet performed, earns the matchmaker one third of the going rate [ibid.].

Again, the amount due for receiving matchmaking services is, like all employment rates, subjective to the custom of the local society [Choshen Mishpat 333:1].

C. Quantification:

Undoubtedly, a matchmaker provides information, which could be of value later, whether or not he or she is involved in brokering and/or actualizing the relationship.

The question at hand is, "Are the prospective sides forever beholden to the initial information provider?"

The answer is one that demands a level of personal honesty.

If the prospective sides close the file, they owe nothing to the initial matchmaker even if they subsequently meet again. If, however, they never fully closed the file, or else, the first encounter nevertheless enhances the second meeting, they owe the initial matchmaker his or her share for introducing them to each other.

A regulation of Prague, which became the accepted custom across the Jewish spectrum, was to award the initial matchmaker should the prospective sides have met again within the same year.

Within the same year, we can assume that the two parties consciously or subconsciously never really parted ways. Hence, the initial matchmaker deserves his or her due share. However, once a year elapsed we can assume that both sides have parted ways seriously, and any subsequent relationship formed is independent of the initial matchmaker's efforts.

Nevertheless, as inferred above, if the prospective sides know within themselves that their original encounter enhanced their subsequent meeting, they would be responsible to their initial matchmaker even after a year has passed.

Application:

For all intensive purposes, Aaron and Leah forgot about each other after their first dating experience. Three years passed until they chanced upon each other in the air. Objectively, Mrs. Hellman's services terminated with no success. They therefore must remunerate Mrs. Hellman only if their original encounter played a role in striking up serious conversation on the flight. Should it have played a role, the Berger's would be liable to pay Mrs. Hellman 1/3 of the going matchmaker's rate, for having introduced them to each other.

[Answered by Rabbi Eli Marburger, Halachic Advisor, Fellow-Yesharim Research Center]

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.

Fellow Weekly now reaches over a quarter of a million people worldwide via various publications. You can help build a better world. Just invite your friends and family to subscribe to Fellow Weekly.

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