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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 69 "Grandma's Cuisine" Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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3/4/11

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.

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

CASE 169: GRANDMA'S CUISINE

Swiveling back and forth behind his long wooden mahogany desk, Morris Berger Esq. was busy pricing gourmet caterers. Grandma's 100th birthday celebration was an event Morris took extremely seriously. Taking stock of his precocious children, his cheerful extended family and his personal financial success, he felt indebted to his beloved and spirited grandmother. Grandma's fight for life and herculean stamina, particularly during the 1940's inspired a fervent awe deep in Morris' heart.

November 1st 2010 promised to be a solemn and respectful recognition of her vision and impassioned dedication towards rebuilding her healthy Jewish family anew. Cuisine caterers offered a five-course meal along the Baltimore waterfront for $100 a plate, while Pretty Palate priced at $95. Berger conjectured telling Cuisine that his competitor could do it for $90, hoping Cuisine would meet him or do better; yet he was unsure if Grandma would approve such conduct.

What's the Law?

[Submitted by J.L. Manhattan NY]

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

Read next week's issue for the answer!

LAST WEEK'S CASE

CASE 168: The All American Farm Boys & The Eggless Cantor

New Jersey is central to the history of Jewish farmers in America. During the first half of the twentieth century, thousands of Jews started farms in the Garden State. For the most part, they started egg farms due to poor soil for crops. Jews were some of the first people to have large egg farms. In her book about the Jewish farming community of Farmingdale, New Jersey, Gertrude Dubrovsky writes, "Jewish farmers took chicken raising out of the backyard and made an industry of it".

Around the First World War, Jews started settling in loose knit groups on farms in south central New Jersey. Some of the bigger Jewish farming communities were in Tom's River, Farmingdale and Lakewood. (Berger, Joseph (May 31, 1987) The New York Times.

{Henceforth, names are fictitious for obvious reasons}.

By 1920, 50 close-knit eastern European Jewish families belonged to the Any-town Community of Jewish Farmers. The local Hope of Israel Synagogue served as the moral and spiritual hub for the hard working congregants. Cantor Herbert's sweet and inspiring cantorial Shabbat renditions propelled the men of the soil high into the ethereal stratosphere each weekend infusing them with an otherworldly mutual rapture, love, and sense of purpose. In return, Hope of Israel provided Robert with a decent salary and a dozen eggs a week to gargle or fry.

Seventeen years passed and new waves began to form within the community. The younger generation lost interest in Herbert's Eastern European musical style. While Anytown could not boast a significant population growth, before long a new All American Farm Boys Congregation was formed. Suddenly threatened with a dwindling membership Hope of Israel could no longer meet their budgetary demands.

As the 1937 High Holidays approached, Hope of Israel's Board of Directors notified Cantor Herbert that they could no longer renew his contract.

Devastated, and left penniless, Herbert summoned Congregation AAFB to court accusing them of undermining his livelihood.

The AAFB or Cantor Herbert?

What's the Law?

The Answer

While ethically, the younger congregants should have considered very strongly before opening a competing congregation, as locals, the young AAFB congregants are legally entitled to open a synagogue to their suiting. Hence, they are not responsible to pay Cantor Herbert for his consequential loss (See Detailed Explanation and Igros Moshe C.M.).

Outsiders though, would not be entitled to open a competing place of worship with the pre-existing local synagogue. Likewise, they would be compelled to close should they have already opened [This is the Correction].

Detailed Explanation

Caution: The Eggless Cantor involves an extremely delicate subject matter. Even the slightest detail can significantly alter the ruling. Additionally, often local needs and far-reaching implications must be considered. Thus, when seeking to engage in a venture, which could adversely damage pre-existing establishments, it is prudent to seek Halachic advice.

The Eggless Cantor implicates the following four laws.

1. Unless absolutely necessary it is wrong to engage in a venture that could put one's fellow out of business [Shulchan Aruch HaRav Hilchos Hasagas Gevul 13].

2. A stranger may not start a business, which could harm the local pre-existing establishment [Choshen Mishpat 151:5]. However, if the public will benefit significantly from the new business, the public's interest is preferred over the pre-existing establishment [Nimukei Yosef Maseches Bava Basra 11a].

3. Generally, one local does not have a preferred right over a particular line of business more so than does his/her neighbors. Consequently, a local may open a competing business to a pre-existing establishment [Choshen Mishpat 151:5].

4. Nevertheless, when a local's opening of a competing practice (B) may harm the pre-existing establishment to such an extent that (A) can no longer make ends meet, Halachic guidance should be sought [ibid.]

Application

Optimally, the younger congregants should have attempted to initiate a workable compromise with the older generation, instead of simply opening up a competing congregation. Generally, peaceful resolutions are preferred. Nevertheless, as locals, they are legally entitled to open a place of worship, which suits their style even if by doing so, Hope of Israel would suffer financially.

In situations comparable to our case when the resultant losses were so significant that (A) or the pre-existing synagogue could not meet their budgetary demands, there is often valid room to rule stringently. (As noted in 4, in each particular case, Halachic guidance should be sought).

However, in the Eggless Cantor there is another issue to consider towards vindicating the AAFB congregants.

The community was stagnant. Uninterested in Cantor Herbert's style, Hope of Israel lost its appeal to the younger generation. Bereft of a service of their liking, the younger generation could simply have moved away to a different location where they could feel comfortable praying in their preferred style. As such, Hope of Israel's days were inevitably numbered. Arguably, it was not the opening of AAFB per se which brought Hope of Israel to financial distress.

This being said; coupled with the aforementioned legal right for the locals to open a synagogue to suit their liking, they could not be held liable for Cantor Herbert's unfortunate situation.

[Answered by The Fellow-Yesharim Research Center]

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