Story LineDidn’t AttendRabbi Meir Orlean
David was checking his mail, which included a large, fancy envelope. “It looks like a wedding invitation... I wonder who sent it. Wow! Shimon is getting married!” he exclaimed. “It was nice of him to invite me. We were close in school, but haven’t seen each other for a while.”
“Where is the wedding?” David’s wife asked.
“It’s in Baltimore,” said David. “It’s quite a drive, but I guess I’ll go.”
“I don’t think I’ll come,” his wife said. “I’d have to get a babysitter for the whole day.”
David sent an RSVP: “David will attend — one person.”
On the morning of the wedding, David had second thoughts. “I’m not relishing the drive,” he told his wife. “I also have work I’d like to finish and some household repairs I’ve been pushing off”
“But you responded that you’re coming!” said his wife.
“I know, I feel bad about that,” said David.
“They ordered a serving for you,” she pointed out. “If you don’t go, you’re causing them a loss! At least send a gift to cover the serving!”
“Whether I come or not is not really a loss for them,” David replied. “Either I’ll eat the food, or I won’t.”
Nonetheless David decided to consult Rabbi Dayan. “If I don’t attend, am I liable for the serving?” he asked.
“It’s hard to give a blanket answer; expectations vary,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “In some places the count is exact; in others it’s approximate. Some people reduce the count 10%, knowing that not everyone will show up. Some circles rely on gifts to cover the wedding cost; others see the gift as an expression of goodwill.”
“Is there some halachic precedent?” asked David.
“Many authorities state that one who makes an arrangement with another, who incurs expenses based on it, is liable for those expenses if he does not uphold the arrangement,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “This is included in garmi – directly caused damage, unless there was sufficient cause (oness) that prevented him from upholding the arrangement, e.g., illness” (C.M. 386:1).
“Can you provide some examples?” asked David.
“If litigants arrange a court date in a distant city, but one did not appear, he is liable for the travel expenses of the other party,” replied Rabbi Dayan.
“Chavos Yair (#168) derives from this that if a chassan committed to come from afar for the wedding, but did not come, he is liable for the wedding expenditures of the kallah” (Rema, C.M. 14:5; Pischei Teshuvah, C.M. 14:15; Pischei Choshen, Nezikin 3:27).
“Similarly, the Rosh (104:6) states that one who told a craftsman to make something that he would buy from him, but retracted, is liable for his expenses,” continued Rabbi Dayan.
“Rabi Akiva Eiger (#134) applies this to one who instructed another to import fruits from a distant place, but retracted from the purchase” (C.M. 333:8; Pischei Choshen, Sechirus 13:3).
“Similarly, a lender who instructs a potential borrower to prepare a loan document, but retracts from loaning,” added Rabbi Dayan, “is liable for the borrower’s expenses” (Sma 39:46).
“It sounds, then, like I’m liable for the cost of the serving,” said David.
“Despite this, all these cases are in the context of a contractual obligation or mutual commitment between the two parties: plaintiff–defendant; chassan–kallah; employer–employee; buyer–seller; lender–borrower,” replied Rabbi Dayan.
“However, where there is no obligation of one toward another, even if someone incurred unnecessary expenses of his own volition because of another party, it seems to me that this does not obligate the other party.
“At most it would be grama, for which one is liable only b’dinei Shamayim when done with intention to damage or through negligence, but not when done in good faith” (C.M. 386:3; Pischei Choshen, Nezikin 3:39).
“Nonetheless,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “it would seem proper manners to wish mazel tov with a gift and an apology for not attending.”
From the BHI HotlineDid You Read the Contract?
Q: I chose a couch from a furniture store. The employee who assisted me filled out the order form with the model number and had me sign it. I paid the majority of the bill. A few days later the couch was delivered, but it was the wrong model. I called the store immediately and they said that I received the couch that was on the invoice I had signed.
Upon further investigation we realized that the employee put the wrong model number on the invoice. I demanded that they replace the couch with the correct model; they refused since that would cause them a loss. They further argued that since I signed the order form with the wrong model number, I am bound by that. Their claim sounded ridiculous to me, but they say they have had this situation in the past and were told that once someone signs on a contract, he is bound by the terms of that contract, even if he doesn’t understand or is unaware of all the terms of the contract. When I repeated that their claim sounds ridiculous, we agreed that I would submit the question to the Business Halacha Institute for a ruling.
A: It is obvious that in your situation, you can cancel the order since you received the wrong couch. However, it presents us with a good opportunity to address the issue of a contract signed between two parties where one of the parties later claims that he did not read the contract and realize what he committed to. Does such a claim have any validity?
Someone who signs a contract is bound by everything written in the contract, even when it is clear that he cannot read it or understand its contents, e.g., it is written in a foreign language (C.M. 45:3 and 68:2). Since he had the option to have someone read it and explain it to him and decided to forgo that, he commits to all of the contents of the contract (Sma 45:5).
Accordingly, if a man claims that he did not read his kesubah and did not realize what he was committing to pay, his claim is disregarded (C.M. 61:13 according to Sma 22 and Shach 18; cf. Rashba 1:629, E.H. 66:13, Miktzoa BaTorah 45:3; and Yeshuos Yisrael 45:3). This is especially true when the person signed the contract himself rather than witnesses testifying to his commitment (Chasam Sofer, C.M. 5, cited by Pischei Teshuvah, C.M. 61:6; see also Chochmas Shlomo). For this reason, it is essential before signing a contract to review its contents.
Some authorities limit this to where there was nothing misleading. If Reuven instructed Shimon to include certain provisions in the contract and Shimon wrote a different set of provisions, the contract is void. Since we know that this was not Reuven’s intent, he is not bound by what Shimon included in the contract against Reuven’s will (Aruch Hashulchan 45:5; see also Knesses Hagedolah: Hagahos Beis Yosef 232:5, 7 and Divrei Malkiel 1:86:). Therefore, unusual and absurd agreements or commitments that were unexpected are not binding (see Emek Hamishpat 1:19:)].
In your situation, besides the fact that the order form is not intended to serve as proof of your commitment regarding which model you ordered, most customers do not understand all the information included in the order form and routinely rely on the expertise of the salesman to fill in the order form correctly. Therefore, when the salesman fills in the wrong model number, your signature is not binding, and since you received the wrong couch they are obligated to either deliver the correct couch or refund your money.
Money mattersRent and Heter Iska#413
Q: Does a guarantor of rent or “interest” through a heter iska require a kinyan?
A: We learned that a guarantor, from the time of the loan, does not require a kinyan, since the lender relied on him to grant money, whereas one who commits afterwards does require one.
A guarantor of rent, who committed from the time of rental, does not require a kinyan. Although the owner did not grant money and the rent he receives is profit, rental payment for use of the object is considered inherent within the profit, and the owner relied on the guarantor to grant that value (Nesivos 129:4; Chavas Daas, Y.D 170:5; Pischei Choshen, Halvaah 13:23).
There is a dispute whether a guarantor of the “interest” portion of a heter iska (i.e., the settlement amount) requires a kinyan. This depends on whether one views the settlement amount as the inherent, presumed earnings or as an external payment to exempt the active partner from an oath. Therefore, the guarantor should make a kinyan (Sma 129:13; Shach 129:12; Ketzos 129:2; Pischei Teshuvah, C.M. 108:4).