Story LineSnack for the Ride HomeRabbi Meir Orlian
Mr. Schindler worked in the upscale office of a high-tech company. For the benefit of the employees and clients, the office had a well-stocked kitchenette that contained a state-of-the-art coffee machine as well as pastries, fruit and packaged snacks.
Mr. Schindler often worked overtime, and frequently would not leave until after 6:30 p.m. On his way out, his stomach would remind him that he hadn’t eaten for a few hours and still had an hour-long ride home. To placate his stomach, Mr. Schindler would take a pastry and a fruit with him when he left work, and eat them on the way home.
One day, a coworker, Mr. Lichter, also stayed to finish some work. As they were leaving, Mr. Schindler wrapped up a pastry and fruit and put them in his bag. “Would you like to take a snack with you?” he offered Mr. Lichter.
“Thank you,” Mr. Lichter said. “I had something earlier in the day, but I’m hesitant to take food home with me.”
“Why?” asked Mr. Schindler. “What’s the problem?”
“The refreshments are meant for us to eat while on the job,” Mr. Lichter answered. “I don’t think people are supposed to take them home.”
“I’m not exactly taking them home,” replied Mr. Schindler. “I worked a long day, and I’m hungry. You think the boss would prefer that I take time off toward the end of the day to eat in the office? And I’m not the only one who takes food for the way home.”
“I’m not sure it’s right,” said Mr. Lichter. “I know that even when the Torah allows a worker to eat from his employer’s vineyard, it says that he may not take fruit with him.”
“I never really considered the issue,” replied Mr. Schindler. “I’ll ask Rabbi Dayan.”
May Mr. Schindler take a snack from the office for the way home from work?
The Torah (Devarim 23:25-26) entitles a worker to eat of his employer’s grapes while working in a vineyard, but he may not put aside fruit for later. This permission to eat is restricted to agricultural work, however, and does not apply to a worker performing other work – even if food-related, such as a worker in a dairy or grocery (B.M. 87a; C.M. 337:1-2).
Nevertheless, the Mishnah (B.M. 83a) mentions the common practice in certain places to provide meals or snacks for workers, even those not involved in agricultural work, and concludes that the rule is: “In accordance with the local common practice.” This is a significant principle in employer-employee relations (C.M. 331:2).
In an office setting, therefore, the question of whether a worker may take the office food does not relate to the Torah’s provision that a worker in the vineyard may eat, but rather to the local common practice. It is uncommon nowadays for office workers to be served meals, but it is accepted that most workplaces provide at least coffee and tea and a water cooler.
If the company also provides refreshments, whether or not it is acceptable for workers to take snacks for the way home depends on the common practice and the understanding they have with their employer. If allowing the worker to take food with him will enable him to work more efficiently toward the end of the day, that might be a factor in permitting the practice. However, if workers routinely take snacks home against the express wishes of the company owners, that would not make the practice valid, since a practice to steal does not constitute an accepted common practice. (See C.M. 337:11; Pischei Choshen, Sechirus 7:.)
It makes no difference whether the company is owned by Jews or not, since for an employee to eat what he is not entitled to is considered theft, and theft from a non-Jew is not allowed (Sma 337:38; C.M. 348:2).
“Thus,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “whether Mr. Schindler may take a snack for the ride home depends on the common practice and the understanding with the company. If the practice is unclear, he should clarify with an authorized supervisor.”
From the BHI HotlineBroken Boundary Part II
Q. Last week, we dealt with the case of a person who inadvertently extended his house approximately one foot over the boundary into his neighbor’s property. We found that according to many poskim, when it comes to real estate theft, there is no takanas hashavim enabling the thief to repay the monetary value instead of the actual property, and the homeowner would therefore be required to destroy the extension and return the property.
According to this ruling, however, he would incur a major financial loss by destroying the extension, while his neighbor’s loss in selling him a small portion of his unbuilt property would be negligible. Does this imbalance constitute sufficient grounds to force the neighbor to sell him the property and allow him to keep his extension intact?
A. There are poskim who raise the possibility that when the expansion into the neighbor’s property was unintentional, we would consider forcing the neighbor to sell him the land.
This ruling is based on a dispute between Tanna’im (Bava Kamma 114a). According to Rav Yishmael the son of Rav Yochanan ben Berokah, a person is required to incur a minor financial loss in order to save another person from a major loss. For instance, if a beekeeper’s bees escaped and settled on a branch of another person’s tree, we allow the beekeeper to cut off that branch to save his entire swarm of bees, and pay the tree owner for the branch (Choshen Mishpat 274:1). Similarly, if a person’s barrel of honey broke, we require the owner of a barrel of wine, which is less valuable than honey, to pour out his wine and place his empty barrel under the leaky honey barrel; he would then be reimbursed by the owner of the honey for the value of the wine (ibid. 364:5). Since he is not incurring a major financial loss, Chazal required him to forfeit his own object to save a fellow Jew from major financial loss, as a form of hashavas aveidah (Sma ibid. 17).
The Chachamim argue with Rav Yishmael, however, maintaining that the owner of the tree or the wine can say that he prefers his own items over their monetary value.
The Poskim throughout the generations disputed how we rule in such cases, and both sides were cited in Shulchan Aruch (264:5 and 274:1; see Pischei Teshuvah 272:2). Some poskim write that a yerei Shomayim should follow Rav Yishmael’s ruling and forfeit his item in order to save his friend from a major financial loss (Shulchan Aruch Harav, Dinei Sh’eilah 6).
In our case, since the person who extended his house would incur a major financial loss if he were required to destroy the extension, and his neighbor doesn’t lose nearly as much by giving up a small portion of his unbuilt property, some poskim write that since this was done unintentionally, we might require the neighbor to sell him the land for that extension (Shaar Mishpat 360:1). [In addition, Shu”t Maharsham (3:23) writes that the person who extended is considered to be in possession of the land (muchzak), and he can therefore declare “kim li,” which entitles a defendant to claim that he subscribes to the opinion that exonerates him and that the plaintiff bears the burden of proof that the halachah follows the other opinion.]
Other poskim reject the comparison to the machlokes Tannaim, because we only find this halachah applied to items that do not last forever, such as a branch of a tree or a barrel of wine. With regard to real estate, which a person is loath to sell, we cannot apply this takanah to force a person to incur a minor loss in order to save another person from a major loss. [As a rule, if we are uncertain whether Chazal included a certain case in a takanah that they instituted, we revert to Torah law, which, in this case, requires the builder to destroy his extension; (Erech Shai 360:1; Shu”t Ohr Samei’ach 2:11; see Mishpat Shalom 175:59).]
Returning to the original question, considering that it is likely that beis din would require the homeowner to destroy his extension, it would be wise to try to negotiate a settlement that will satisfy his neighbor rather than enter a din Torah.
Money mattersCanceled Deal#473
Q: I brokered a deal (or made a shidduch), but the parties decided to cancel the deal (or break the shidduch). Am I still entitled to the brokerage (or shidduch) fee?
A: If the parties undid the deal after transferring ownership (or got divorced after marriage), they still owe you the fee. Even beforehand, if they retracted after the point that is considered concluding the deal or shidduch to obligate the fee (e.g., tena’im), as explained last week, you remain entitled to the fee (Rama and Taz 185:10; Shaar Ephraim, C.M. #150).
However, if the deal was canceled because the parties discovered information which, had they known beforehand, would have prevented the deal, you must return the fee (Aruch Hashulchan, C.M. 183:13).
If the other party asks you to intervene and try to restore the deal or shidduch that was canceled, there is a dispute whether you are required to do so. This depends partly on the reason why it was canceled (Rama 294:6; Shach 294:9; Pischei Teshuvah 294:3).