Rabbi Meir Orlian
Matos - Masei
Adam worked in Wolf’s Wholesale Sefarim store. He worked until 5:00 PM, but he would often leave earlier to deliver sefarim (Jewish books) as part of his job.
Today was no different. In the early afternoon, Mr. Wolf helped Adam load ten boxes of sefarim into his car for delivery.
“These go to a store on my block,” Adam commented to Mr. Wolf. “That will be convenient to deliver on the way home.”
At 4:30, Adam drove off to deliver the sefarim.
The following day, Mr. Wolf reviewed Adam’s timecard.
“I see that you left a half-hour early,” he said to Adam. “I thought you were going to drop the sefarim off on your way home.”
“I did,” said Adam. “It was very convenient; it saved me the extra half-hour drive home.”
“Exactly; you could have stayed till 5:00,” replied Mr. Wolf. “I assumed you would work a regular day and deliver the sefarim when you got home. You were going there anyway.”
“If I have a package to deliver, that’s part of work,” said Adam. “Sometimes the deliveries take me farther from home, and sometimes they take me closer.”
“That’s understandable,” said Mr. Wolf. “But this required no extra effort on your part; it was right on your block. It’s a case of zeh neheneh v’zeh lo chaser (this one benefits and this one does not lose out).”
“You asked me to deliver the sefarim, so I included it in my work hours,” Adam responded. “Whether it’s on my way home or not should be of no consequence to you.”
“I’m not going to make a fuss about it; it’s only half an hour,” said Mr. Wolf. “But I attend a fascinating business halacha shiur on Sunday mornings with Rabbi Tzedek. I’m interested in finding out what the halacha would be in this situation.”
“I’ll join you,” said Adam.
On Sunday after the shiur, Mr. Wolf and Adam approached Rabbi Tzedek.
“An interesting case occurred last week,” began Mr. Wolf. “We were wondering what the halacha is.”
He related the story to Rabbi Tzedek and asked:,“Can Adam count the sefarim delivery to his block as part of his work hours?”
“Unless agreed otherwise beforehand, Adam is entitled to deliver the sefarim to his block during work hours,” said Rabbi Tzedek, “even though it saved him the usual drive home.”
Rabbi Tzedek explained. “The overriding principle regarding working conditions is ‘minhag hamedinah,’ the common practice (C.M. 331:1, 2),” replied Rabbi Tzedek. “It seems clear that the common practice nowadays is to pay for hours ‘on the job’ without consideration of travel time. Some workers live an hour from their work and others live five minutes away; both get paid the same salary for equivalent work. Most places in America do not reimburse for travel expenses, while in Israel most do. Therefore, as long as Adam was servicing Wolf’s Wholesale Sefarim, he is entitled to consider it as part of his work, even if it spares him the travel time home.”
“But what about the concept of zeh neheneh v’zeh lo chaser?” asked Mr. Wolf. “Since Adam had to go home anyway, and lost nothing in delivering the sefarim, shouldn’t I be exempt from paying for the benefit I gained?”
“The concept of zeh neheneh does not apply here for a few reasons,” answered Rabbi Tzedek. “First, the concept relates primarily to de facto situations, where someone already benefited from another’s property or efforts. However, if you request that someone do you a service, you usually must pay, even if it did not cause the other person additional effort or expenditure (see 363:6).
“Second, zeh neheneh applies only when there was no additional effort or cost involved,” added Rabbi Tzedek. “However, when there is even a small additional cost, then the beneficiary must pay for the entire service, not only the additional small amount. Thus, since the delivery was a few houses away and required an additional stop, as well as time and effort to unload the sefarim, it is not considered ‘lo chaser,’ and you must pay your worker the full amount for the delivery (363:7).”