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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 47 - Amsterdam or London? - Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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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.

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CASE 148: Amsterdam or London?

On the verge of finalizing a multi-million Euro deal with Amsterdam's high-end shops in the streets Pieter, Cornelisz, and Hooftstraat; Kobe Perns, Chief Developer for Central European Distribution Corporation was flying high.

Suddenly, the fierce volcanic ash violently spurted higher. Trapped for endless days in London en route to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, his dream deal seemed to be slipping fast between his fingers. Eleven A.M. on Wednesday April 21st was the deadline. Time was ticking and Kobe relinquished his fate to a higher force.

At 2 A.M. on Wednesday morning, he received the following SMS on his Blackberry™.

"The Civil Aviation Authority has now opened UK airspace. We are open and ready for business and are operating a limited number of flights today. Note: It will take some time to return to normal operations as planes and crews are out of position. Until further notice, it remains important that passengers contact their airlines before traveling to the airport." BAA Heathrow.

Rubbing his weary eyes, his heart began pounding heavily as he contacted Aer Lingus™ customer service desk. Aer Lingus™, he learned, would fly one flight at 3:45 A.M. and another at 10 P.M.

In lightening speed, Kobe jumped out of bed. Six minutes later his foot hit the pedal of his silver 2010 Range Rover. Backing out of his spot on Percival St., Perns suddenly heard a loud and frightening smash! In the dark of the night, his Rang Rover crashed into the glass storefront of Mike's Bikes.

Instantly, Kobe searched online for a twenty-four hour emergency window repair. Blast Glass replied that they could be over in fifteen minutes...

Yet, who had fifteen minutes to spare?

Time was ticking. Kobe's dream deal seemed to have been slipping fast between his fingers...

"A job of 200 Euro will cost you 600 in the middle of the night," emailed Blast Glass."

- Kobe damaged a window worth 200 Euro. A rush job during off hours though, cost 600. How much is Kobe responsible to pay?

- Kobe's multi-million Euro deal is at stake. Every minute counts. May Kobe bill his credit card and leave the scene before Blast Glass arrives? Is Kobe responsible to risk the coveted business deal to stand guard to thwart off possible vandals from ransacking Mike's shop? - ... Amsterdam or London?

What is the law?

Please email us with your comments and answers at

Read next week's issue for the answer!


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 a 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 come 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 reality 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 at an interview wearing Fred's Rolex?

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.

1. Fred must accept the watch and return Brian's cash.

2. Brian may wear the watch to the interview. (See detailed explanation below.)

Detailed Explanation

Rolex or Buick! Implicates two distinct issues

1. Is Brian entitled to recourse to reclaim his money?

2. Is Brian guilty of "stealing" the heart of his prospective supervisor?

Let us focus on each issue independently.

1. Introduction:

Here is a quote from Encyclopedia Britannica (Mortgage Law).

"If the mortgagor failed to repay the debt by the time that was specified in the mortgage, the land became the mortgagee's absolutely....In the 16th and 17th centuries, however, the English equity courts intervened on the side of the mortgagor. Equity first gave the mortgagor a right to redeem the land by paying the amount that was owing, even after he had defaulted on the debt..."

Consider the following albeit different, yet similar Talmudic scenario.

"A bailor (depositor) delivered jewelry to a bailee (custodian) for safekeeping. Upon the bailor's return, the bailee fails to locate the jewelry. The court requires the bailee to compensate the bailor for the value of the jewelry. The bailee defaulted and the court mortgaged the bailee's real estate to the bailor. Subsequently, the bailee found the jewelry in his possession. We deem the compensation a faux - pas (blunder) and the bailee retains the right to redeem his or her real estate from the bailor." [Bava Metzia 35a, Choshen Mishpat 103: 11]

So, the progressiveness of sixteenth and seventeenth century English Equity courts, was in fact a rediscovery of sorts of a theory directly reflecting the age-old Talmudic concept. "Although a debtor compensated the creditor with alternative means, he or she does not necessarily lose the right to reclaim the "alternative compensation" with due payment at a later date."

Now, while generally, Talmudic Law only obligates the creditor/bailor (depositor) to comply with such compulsory recourse in an instance of faux-pas, and not in an instance of blatant default of payment, we will allow for history to play out its course and see if Anglo-American Law progresses further in the direction it seems to be taking.


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

Fred must accept the watch and return Brian's cash.

As a bailee, Brian was responsible to return the goods Fred deposited by him. Monetary compensation as a form of alternative compensation is due should Brian not produce the deposit. In our faux-pas situation, where Brian subsequently discovered the deposit amongst his belongings, he may return it to Fred and require Fred to return to him his cash. Rolex or Buick? Buick!

2. Is Brian guilty of "stealing" the heart of his prospective supervisor?


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: Creating an atmosphere within which the victim is to blame for not thinking responsibly is not included in these prohibitions. [Maseches Chulin 93b] (See Issue #46 for more exceptions and details)


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

While "dressing the part" clearly makes a striking impression, which might positively influence the outcome of an interview, it is widely accepted for a prospective candidate to groom himself or herself fashionably for such a meeting. A supervisor's responsibility is to appreciate that candidates portray themselves in a superior manner within reason of their means and see beyond the outside trimmings.

Consequently, sporting finer wear for an interview does not convey a false impression of the manner in which the candidate appears on a day-to-day basis.

Instead, the supervisor suffers the consequences of his or her failure to consider these factors accordingly. Hence, as a Rolex was within reason of Brian's means, although he did not own one, he may appear at his interview sporting Fred's Rolex.

[Answered by the 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.

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