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Fellow Weekly Newsletter Issue 46 - Rolex or Buick - Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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8/13/10

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 147: Rolex or Buick!

Few would imagine that the 1989 graduating class of Harvard Business School would develop into one of the most celebrated graduating classes of the era. As exemplary role models, who positively influenced both business and society; the class of 1989 already boasted numerous Alumni Achievement Awardees.

Today's leading executives and activists were yesterday's determined neophytes. Brian Green, a leading executive of Morgan Stanley and an 1989 graduate, remembers his first interview and its aftermath.

"Forever a genuine comrade, my fellow classmate Fred Bernstein, prayed hard that I would get the job. A selfless young man - he would rejoice when his peers succeeded.

Determined but equally nervous, I wished to make a striking impression... Fred looked me over and exclaimed, 'Brian, your presentation is great, but you will steal the show if you came in wearing a gold watch. Here, take my Rolex for the interview. I will be out of town for the next few days. Give it back to me when I return.'

Thank G-d I got the job. The supervisor told me that I made an outstanding impression and would begin my career in but one month's time. I felt sincerely indebted to Bernstein.

Throughout my college tenure, I had been saving up for my first Buick. I was eager to make my purchase in time for my first job.

Bernstein returned a week later, but to my misfortune, I could not locate the watch. As much as I searched through my belongings, the Rolex did not appear.

My dream was dashed! Painfully, I dug into my purse, liquidated my savings and issued to Bernstein two checks for $3000.

Fred cashed the checks and purchased a similar model from Tourneau.

As I cycled on my Schwinn each day to work, my mind soared back to my dream Buick.

Four months later, when relocating to a new apartment, the Rolex appeared. "Eureka! My Buick may be a realty soon after all", I thought. Excited to return the watch and reclaim my cash, I contacted Bernstein and told him, I'll be over in ten minutes...'Not so fast replied Fred. What should I do with two watches?'..."

- Must Fred accept the watch and return Brian's cash?

- May Brian appear to an interview wearing Fred's Rolex?

What is the law?

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 146: What a Wedding!

Adored by his fellow classmates and campus friends, Eli Werner was a humble, self-motivated and good-hearted young man. Eli consistently extended a concerted effort to bring happiness to other people's lives. It was no wonder that the student body was overjoyed when Eli broke the news of his imminent nuptials to Karen Sanders on April the 7th.

Eli's popularity though, far surpassed his financial capacity. Student loans and a range of additional debts awaited his attention. Ben Schwartz, a well off, close confidant of Werner, knew that furnishing a home would pose a challenge for the Werners. Concerned, Ben schemed for a respectable tactic through which to ease their plight.

Schwartz, drove to Macy's, purchased fifteen thousand dollars worth of household items and distributed them amongst Eli and Karen's friends. Reciprocation time for Eli's good heartedness had come and all were eager to comply with Ben's strategy to fill their friend's heart with joy and comfort.

Dressed in their finest, laden with Ben's gifts, the wedding guests lined up in the park to welcome the white limousine.

What a wedding! Smiles from ear to ear and a heart filled with happiness and reassurance, Eli lavished copious expressions of gratitude upon all the wedding guests for their thoughtfulness and generosity.

- Is it permissible for the wedding guests to elicit undeserved expressions of gratitude from Eli? [See Choshen Mishpat 228]

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.

While it is generally forbidden to elicit unwarranted sentiments of gratitude, the wedding guests may comply with Ben's scheme. (See detailed explanation below.)

Detailed Explanation

What a Wedding!, implies the following two laws.

1. Deceiving any human being in a manner is a form of theft and is a biblical prohibition [Maseches Chulin 93b].

2.Additionally, tricking any human being even without causing him or her a financial loss or damage is a rabbinical prohibition. This includes garnering undeserved praise or feelings of gratitude through feigning a false impression of benevolence and virtue.

Explanation: Just as one may not steal another's money one may not manipulate another's feelings of gratitude and steal his or her heart. Shulchan Aruch HaRav: Hilchos Ona'ah U'Genevah 11, 12]

Exception: The rabbinical prohibition of tricking without causing loss or damage does not apply when the false impression is set in order to protect the dignity of the individual.Sm" Choshen Mishpat 228: 8, 10]

Caution: Deceit, which causes damage, is not permitted under this clause.

- Consider the following scenario.

Produce grown in the Holy Land is subject to tithes to the Levite and indigent of which

the owner must separate prior to eating. These tithes belong to the Levite and needy.

The owner though maintains the legal right to distribute the appropriated produce to the Levite and underprivileged of his or her choice.

One may call a Levite to a lavish dinner and serve him or her from the tithe if the host informs the Levite that the source of his or her lavish helping is in fact "tithe food". Maseches Demai 4:4]

Explanation: A guest feels indebted to a host for investing time, money and effort

into preparing for him or her lavish spread. If the guest would know that the food he

or she ate did not belong to the host, but instead belonged to the Levites, the degree

of gratitude would obviously adjust accordingly. Hence, the host must be up front with

the Levite, so as not to garner undeserved sentiments of gratitude.

Application:

- Is it permissible for the wedding guests to elicit undeserved expressions

of gratitude from Eli?

Eli lavished copious expressions of gratitude upon all the wedding guests for their thoughtfulness and generosity. Eli believed that guests spent money for him, which added to the degree of gratitude he felt towards each of them. On face value, the guests may not feign an atmosphere, which will garner underserved gratitude.

However, through a more critical look, the guests are permitted to comply with Ben's scheme for the following two reasons.

1. In truth, Eli owes Ben "15,000" worth of gratitude. As the rightful creditor of the sentiments, Ben may choose to "distribute" his rights amongst his peers.

2. The scheme caused no damage to Eli. The rabbinical prohibition of feigning a false impression does not apply when attempting to protect the dignity of the "victim". Giving Eli a gift worth 15,000 could have made Eli feel like a beggar. Ben schemed for a respectable tactic through which to ease Eli's plight. As the gifts were apportioned amongst the guests to shield Eli's dignity, the wedding guests are permitted to comply with Ben's scheme.

[Answered by Rabbi Yosef Friedman and Rabbi Eli Marburger]

Thank you to all of our readers who responded to The Mysterious Dowry!

We appreciate your active involvement.

Note:

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.

You can help build a better world. Just invite your friends and family to subscribe to

Fellow Weekly.

To join this mailing list, send an email to weekly@projectfellow.org with the word subscribe in the subject line.

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