Submitted by the Bais Hora’ah
Q: I’m a Maggid Shiur in a mesivta that is planning to cut out a class this coming year, which means that they will lay off one Maggid Shiur. My relative is friendly with one of the hanhalah members and might be able to influence him to keep me on staff. Am I allowed to ask him to do so, if that means that someone else will get laid off instead of me?
A: Talmud Yerushalmi (Bava Kamma 3:1) discusses cases in which a person wishes to prevent damage to his own property by diverting that loss to another person. For instance, if a person sees that a water duct is going to flood his field, if the water hasn’t yet entered his field, he may divert the flow of the water even if that means that it will flood someone else’s field. Once the water has entered his field, however, he may not divert it if it will cause damage to another person’s property (Choshen Mishpat 388:12).
Similarly, if a the government is planning to impose a tax on the residents of a city, as long as they haven’t entered the city, an individual may approach the officials and attempt to bribe them not to impose the tax on him, even if it means that others will have to pay instead of him. [It is also permissible for a third party to attempt to intercede on behalf of specific residents; see Noda B’Yehuda Tinyana, Yoreh Dei’ah 74.] Once the government imposed a tax on the city, however, no one is allowed to try to bribe his way out of paying the tax if it means that others will have to pay instead of him (Shach 163:18; cf. Aruch Laner, Yevamos 79a, s.v. V’akati.).
This halachah is applied by the poskim to cases involving people as well. For instance, when the czars ym”s imposed the Cantonist decrees, in which each Jewish community was assigned a quota of children to be conscripted into the Russian army, the poskim debated whether a person was allowed to wheedle his way (or his son’s way) out of the draft if that meant that someone else was going to be conscripted in his place. Following the precedent of the Yerushalmi, some poskim differentiated between cases in which a person was already conscripted and those in which he wasn’t (see Nodeh B’Yehuda and Shu”t Chasam Sofer 6:29), but other poskim maintained that in such a case, a person is always allowed to save himself from conscription due to the principle of chayecha kodmin (Yad Avraham, Yoreh Dei’ah 157, based on Bava Metzia 62a; cf. Magen Avraham 156, Imrei Binah, Orach Chaim 13:5, and Damesek Eliezer [Perlmutter], Introduction and addendum to Introduction. This halachah was also deliberated during the Holocaust; see Introduction to Shu”t Mekadshei Hashem 3, and Shu”t Mimaamakim 5:1).
At first glance, then, it would seem that if the hanhalah already decided to release you, you may not attempt to save your own position if it means that someone else will lose his job, but if the decision wasn’t final, you may be allowed to attempt such an effort.
Upon further analysis, however, your case is dissimilar to all of the aforementioned cases because preventing the other Maggid Shiur from earning money in the future is not akin to causing damage.
We see clearly, for instance, that the poskim deliberate whether a Rebbi may offer his services to a yeshivah that is fully staffed, knowing that if they do hire him, they will fire someone else. The discussion centers around whether it is a case of ani hamehapech becharara (interfering with another Jew’s business deal; see Choshen Mishpat 237:1), not a case of hezek (damage).
In your case, we can rule leniently in regard to ani hamehapech becharara because many poskim maintain that ani hamehapech does not apply when it is a unique opportunity (ibid.). The fact that you are attempting to remain in a school that you are accustomed to teaching in is defined as an extraordinary opportunity. Even those who are stringent in cases of unique opportunities would agree that in this case, you may attempt to retain your position because both of you are equally pursuing the position (see Ramban, Bava Basra 54b; Ran, Kiddushin 24a of the Rif folios).
You would therefore be allowed to intervene in order to save your position even if that means someone else will be laid off. (See however Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat 1:81 and Pischei Choshen, Sechirus ch. 10 fn. 1, who discuss how the hanhalah should act in such a situation).