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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 65 "The Baffled Babysitter - Part IV" Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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Welcome to Fellow Weekly's: WHAT'S THE LAW?™ Encouraging intelligent and entertaining debate at your Shabbos table. WHAT'S THE LAW?™ 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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The Yellow Mediterranean Wednesday morning sun cast its warming embrace across the historic city of Jerusalem, as the jovial populace frolicked festively back and forth carrying out their pre-holiday errands.

Busying themselves with untold preparations, the Bermans enlisted Sara their favorite babysitter to care for Hanna and the twin boys, and tie up some loose ends. Mrs. Berman handed Sara a plastic container of dried sweetened fruit should she deem it fit to treat the children.

The foursome made their ways joyfully down the white stairs to examine their lovely wooden holiday structure and to add their own unique decorative flavors to their makeshift seven-day abode. The background music in the air only added to the emotionally charged atmosphere swelling with smiles and good will.

Four Succahs decorated the Jerusalem cobblestone courtyard in front of the Berman residence; belonging to the Fried, the Gold, the Hartman, and the Berman families respectively. In general, the neighbors were on favorable terms with one another, though affairs with Mrs. Berman and Mrs. Hartman had recently been somewhat strained and compromised.

Quite handy herself, Sara and the children began to hang some beautiful photos along the lightly colored wooden Succah wall when they suddenly ran out of hooks. Hanna ran outside found a jar of metal hooks alongside the Gold Succah. Without thinking too much, Hanna took some hooks from the jar to "borrow" for the holiday. She handed them to Sara and told her to remember to tell daddy to return them to the Golds after the holiday.

Meanwhile, fifteen-year-old Danny gold came down to lay some more support beams across the top of his Succah. His electricity yet to be connected, he figured the Frieds would not mind if he used their outlet and extension cord for a half hour to complete the job. Nor for that matter would they mind if he charged his cell phone in their outlet.

In the Hartman Succah, Mr. Hartman and his four children were installing their light fixtures, when their electric drill ran out of power. Hartman went next store to the Berman's and asked Sara if he could borrow their drill for two hours, to which Sara graciously consent. Shortly thereafter, the twins come barging into the Berman Succah laughing hysterically. Sara and Hanna turn around and their faces dropped. The twins' faces were adorned in chocolate. Some rudimentary investigation led to the discovery of an empty jar of dried fruit and a depletion of Hartman's chocolate bar stash. The Berman twins had usurped the jar of dried fruit, and convinced the Hartman kids to barter their Torino bars for a stash of sugared pineapple.

After Mr. Hartman finished installing his light fixtures, he sat down on the courtyard bench to reply to some last minute emails before the holiday borrowing or rather making use of the Gold's WiFi.

Are these scenes familiar to you?

What is the law?

Please email us with your comments and answers at .

Read next week's issue for the answer!



David Stern Esq. continued to stride forward in his legal and political career. Yet, he never lost sight of the needs of the common citizen. His heart and ears were forever open to listen and lend a hand to his fellow human being when feasible. Stern's friends, supporters and constituents knew that they had an advocate with the public's interest on their side.

Ever since David's adolescence, he would allocate ten percent of his earnings towards charitable causes. The poor and underprivileged were high on his priority list. In addition, Stern himself founded an organization which provided subsidized wheelchairs and walkers for children with disabilities.

His high standard of personal integrity, amiable personality and two decades of community activism made David Stern the perfect candidate to assume the high profiled position of Executive Director of Public Affairs for the [CCBS] Chicago Community Board for Safety and Quality of Life.

On September 1, 2010, David convened with the Board of Governors to draw up a business contract. As they sat, mulling over numerous details and fine print, Stern suddenly became vexed with the following two dilemmas.

1. Now that his salary had grown exponentially, did his long-standing custom of allocating ten percent of his income to charitable causes compel him to continue his practice?

2. Assuming he must continue his practice, how should he figure his salary?

CCBS would issue a direct deposit to his bank account and automatically take off income taxes. Should he allocate ten percent of his gross salary or ten percent of the funds he actually will receive?

Uncle Sam or Johnny's Walker?


[Submitted by Ms. E. G. Chicago, Illinois]

The Answer

Jonathan may keep his windfall.

Detailed Explanation


Giving charity commensurate with one's financial means is a positive commandment [Choshen Mishpat 248:1].

Anyone who has an income is required to allocate from his or her revenue to provide for others in need [Choshen Mishpat 248:2].

UNCLE SAM OR JOHNNY'S WALKER? implicates the following two laws:

1. The amount one is required to allocate to charity depends greatly upon his or her means and the needs of the community.

One who without risking his or her own livelihood can afford to provide for the needs of the community is required to do so.

Otherwise, depending upon one's means, one is required to allocate 20% or 10% of one's annual earnings for the needy [Choshen Mishpat 249:1].

2. Percentages of annual earnings are configured after subtracting income taxes [Birkei Yosef 249].


David Stern's is required to allocate from his annual earnings to the needy irrespective of his previous customs. In fact, his time-honored practice to allocate ten percent of his earnings may suddenly require reevaluation once his salary increases exponentially. David would be required to asses whether he should begin allocating 20% or more of his earnings to charitable causes.

David begins configuring his annual income after subtracting income taxes whether or not the government automatically takes a percentage off his paycheck.

UNCLE SAM OR JOHNNY'S WALKER? ☞ Uncle Sam then Johnny's Walker!

[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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