Story LineShoe BusinessRabbi Meir Orlean
“Mazel tov!” wished the guests as they arrived at the wedding hall.
“Thank you,” answered the chassan’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Epstein. “Im yirtzeh Hashem by you!”
“Where is the chassan? Where are the grandparents?” inquired their next-door neighbor.
“Eli’s in the other room, preparing for the chassan’s tisch,” replied Mr. Epstein. “My in-laws are over there; my parents are on the way. “
Ten minutes later, Mr. Epstein received a call from his mother. “There was a serious accident on the highway,” Grandma Epstein said. “Traffic has been at a complete standstill for 15 minutes! We don’t know when we will arrive.”
“Oh, my!” exclaimed Mr. Epstein. “We’ll have to stall. Please keep updating us.”
Mr. Epstein alerted the family that his parents would be significantly delayed. He consulted with Rabbi Dayan, and they decided to proceed meanwhile with the chassan’s tisch and filling out the kesubah.
“I hope they make it by the chuppah,” Eli said. “I can’t imagine having the chuppah without Zeide and Grandma.”
“Neither can I,” said his father. “The chassan’s tisch takes time, though; signing the kesubah, davening Minchah, etc. If necessary, we’ll delay the chuppah with some extra singing and Maariv.”
Eli pulled out the kesubah. “It was handmade by my kallah’s best friend,” he said.
Rabbi Dayan examined the kesubah. He noted that the date, “Sunday, 20 Sivan,” was written under the assumption that the chuppah would take place while still day.
He then explained to Eli and the witnesses: “The kesubah is essentially a debt document that sets forth the monetary obligations of the husband toward his wife during their marriage and in the eventuality of death or divorce.” He reviewed the various obligations and translated the relevant text.
Eli sneezed twice while going over the kesubah. Just before signing, Rabbi Dayan offered him a handkerchief. “Thanks, Rabbi,” Eli said, “but I have tissues.”
“I wasn’t offering you my handkerchief to blow your nose,” laughed Rabbi Dayan. “I offered you my handkerchief to effect a kinyan sudar.”
“What’s that?” asked Eli.
“A kinyan sudar is a fast and easy way to halachically validate almost any transaction or obligation,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “It’s derived from the story of Boaz in Megillas Rus, who gave his shoe to Mr. Ploni-Almoni to acquire the rights to redeem Elimelech’s fields.”
“What’s Boaz’s shoe got to do with a handkerchief and kesubah?” asked Eli.
“Kinyan sudar symbolizes an exchange,” Rabbi Dayan elaborated. “In Boaz’ time this was done with a shoe; in Chazal’s time with a sudar, a handkerchief; nowadays sometimes with a pen or cellphone. I grant you my handkerchief representing the kallah, and you, in exchange, commit to the obligations toward her in the kesubah.”
Eli grasped the handkerchief and raised it, after which the witnesses signed the kesubah.
Shortly afterwards Grandma Epstein called again. “Traffic is moving again slowly,” she said. “We should arrive in half an hour.”
At last Zeide and Grandma arrived. The families quickly organized for the chuppah. It was already night before Eli gave the ring to his kallah.
“The chassan’s grandfather, Zeide Epstein, is honored with reading the kesubah,” announced the emcee.
Zeide Epstein began reading joyfully: “On Sunday, 20 Sivan...” After the chuppah, he approached Rabbi Dayan.
“Excuse me for asking,” he said, “but I noticed that the date of the kesubah was left as Sunday, even though the chuppah did not take place until nighttime. Does that not invalidate the kesubah?”
“A predated kesubah is invalid, like any other predated debt document, and a new one has to be written,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “However, the chassan obligates himself from the time he makes the kinyan sudar. Therefore, since the kinyan sudar and the signatures were done in the afternoon, that date remains correct, even though the chuppah did not take place until evening” (C.M. 43:7; 39:13).
From the BHI HotlineEaten in Error
Someone put out a cake in the yeshivah with a sign saying that whoever takes a piece should place $1 in the nearby box. A young boy switched the sign with one that said that the cake was for a yahrtzeit, and the bachurim enjoyed the cake.
Q: Are the boys who ate cake obligated to pay $1 per piece they ate?
A: The halachah is that when Reuven steals food and Shimon eats it, the owner has the option to collect from either one of them, since Shimon who ate the stolen food is also considered a thief (C.M. 361:5). Seemingly this means that in our situation the owner may collect from the bachurim who ate the cake.
However, there is another halachah that seems contradictory. If Levi borrowed a cow and passed away, and Levi’s heirs, thinking that the cow belonged to their father, slaughtered it and ate it, they are exempt in terms of liability for damages (they had the right to assume that the cow in their father’s possession was his). Their liability is limited to the benefit they had from eating the cow, which is 2/3 of the going rate (d’mei basar b’zol), since they claim that, had they realized the cow was borrowed, they never would have eaten it (C.M. 341:4). The reason they pay 2/3 is that it is assumed that most people would buy meat at that discounted rate (Sma 341:10). Accordingly, in our situation this means that the bachurim should not have to pay $1 per piece, only what they would have been willing to pay to eat a piece of cake.
Rishonim note the discrepancy between these halachos and offer two resolutions:
1) In the first case, Shimon is liable for eating the stolen food only when he was aware that it was stolen, or if Shimon himself stole it from Reuven. In these circumstances, Shimon knew that the food was stolen and ate it anyway. Therefore, he must pay the full value of the food. In contrast, in the second case, where they found a cow in their father’s possession, they did not intend to eat stolen food; thus they are liable only to pay a discounted rate for the benefit they had from the food (Ramban, Rashba and Ritva, Kesubos 34b. See also Chavas Daas 177:27).
2) Liability is incurred when the one eating the food intends to acquire it, even if he erroneously thought it was permitted for him to do so (cf. Ketzos and Nesivos, C.M. 25). For this reason, Shimon, who intended to take food that he knew belonged to someone else, is liable. However, in the second case, the heirs thought that they had inherited the cow. They thought they were eating their own cow and did not intend to take possession of it from the owner (Shaar Mishpat 72:31; Machaneh Efraim, Gezeilah 7; and Zichron Shmuel 56:7).
When we apply these principles to your situation, if we follow the first approach, the bachurim pay only for their benefit since they thought that the cake was donated to the yeshivah. According to the second approach they knew the cake was not theirs and intended to take possession of it. Therefore, they are obligated to pay $1 for each piece. However, one could argue that the bachurim intended to eat the food but not acquire it. This is similar to guests who are permitted to eat but do not acquire the food (see E.H. 28:17 and Sfas Emes, Sukkah 35a). Thus, even according to the second approach they are liable only for their benefit.
Money mattersUncollected Loan#411
Q: The lender did not collect the loan in a timely manner, and the borrower later fell financially and defaulted. Is the guarantor liable?
A: If the guarantee obligation is for a set time, the terms are binding (Bach, C.M. 131:4).
When time was not stipulated, some say that a standard guarantor obligation is only for the initial period of the loan, while others say that the obligation continues until the loan is repaid. Nonetheless, if the borrower was prepared to pay on time, and the lender neglected the notice of the guarantor to collect while feasible, the guarantor is not liable later (C.M. 131:4; Pischei Teshuvah 131:3; Sma 131:7).
If the borrower is squandering his money, the guarantor can insist that he pay now or find alternate guarantors, even before the loan is due. Similarly, if the borrower’s financial standing is weakening, the guarantor can insist that the lender collect promptly when the loan is due or release him from his obligation (C.M. 131:3; Aruch Hashulchan, C.M. 131:3-4; Pischei Choshen, Halvaah 13:25-27).