“Do you realize that it’s Shaindy’s 30th birthday in a month?” Sara asked Penina. “It’s amazing how time flies!”
“I would like to get her something special,” Penina said. “It’s not common that high-school friends are close for so long. We still talk on the phone once a week.”
“Great idea,” said Sara. “We should also include Bracha. She was her closest neighbor before Shaindy moved away.”
“What should we should get?” asked Penina.
“We could get Shaindy a set of dishes,” suggested Sara.
“I don’t know,” hesitated Penina. “I’d like something special just for her!”
“I know!” Sara’s face lit up. “My neighbor Mrs. Diamond makes jewelry. We can buy Shaindy a nice necklace.”
“Fantastic!” exclaimed Penina. “I’ll call Bracha and ask if she’s OK with the idea.”
The following day, Penina met Sara outside in the park. “I spoke with Bracha and she was eager to participate in the gift. She also said she can get the gift over to Shaindy.”
“Excellent,” replied Sara. “We’ll meet tomorrow afternoon at Mrs. Diamond and choose the necklace.”
The following day, Sara and Penina bought a necklace at Mrs. Diamond. “Shaindy will just love it,” Sara said. “It’s just her taste!”
“I’ll see Bracha next week,” said Penina. “I’ll her give the necklace so that she can get it to Shaindy.”
Penina brought the necklace over to Bracha and showed it to her. “Oh, it’s lovely,” said Bracha. “I’ll get it over to Shaindy for her birthday.”
A few weeks later, Sara and Penina were talking. “You know, it’s strange,” Sara said. “Shaindy never said anything about the necklace.”
“I know,” Penina replied. “I also spoke with Shaindy and she didn’t say anything. I finally asked if she got the necklace, and she said that she didn’t. I’ll ask Bracha what happened.”
Penina called Bracha. “Oh! I sent the gift with my neighbor, who teaches with Shaindy,” Bracha said. “I’ll check what happened.”
Bracha called her neighbor. “Did you ever give that necklace to Shaindy?” she asked. “I remember that you asked me about bringing it,” answered her friend, “but you never gave it to me in the end.”
Bracha called Penina. “My neighbor doesn’t recall that I gave her the gift to deliver to Shaindy,” she said. “I’m really sorry about the mix-up.”
Penina called Sara. “Bad news,” she said. “Bracha says she gave the necklace to her neighbor who works with Shaindy, but the neighbor claims she never received it.”
“What do we do now,” said Sara. “That necklace cost a lot of money! Bracha should have been on top of things.”
“I know,” replied Penina. “But she says she sent it to Shaindy with her neighbor.”
“Well, then, it’s her neighbor’s fault,” said Sara. “Maybe she lost it, or even worse…”
“I don’t think Bracha would give the necklace to someone who would steal it,” said Penina. “But her neighbor said that she doesn’t even recall getting the necklace. It’s very strange.”
“Someone’s got to take responsibility for the necklace,” said Sara. “The question is: Who?”
“Maybe Rabbi Dayan can help,” suggested Penina. “My husband will ask if we can meet with him in his house.”
Sara, Penina and Bracha met with Rabbi Dayan. Penina related what happened and asked, “Who is responsible for the missing necklace?”
“If Bracha informed you and Sara that she was going to send the necklace with someone,” said Rabbi Dayan, “she is not responsible for it, since she followed the arrangement and you trusted that her neighbor was reliable.” (C.M. 121:1)
“What about the neighbor?” asked Sara.
“The neighbor also cannot be held responsible,” said Rabbi Dayan, “since she denies ever having received the necklace.” (121:8)
“I have to acknowledge, though,” Bracha said with a sigh, “that I never told Sara and Penina that I was planning to deliver the necklace through my neighbor.” “In that case, you are responsible for the necklace if you cannot ascertain what happened to it,” said Rabbi Dayan. “A person who is entrusted with an item, and certainly one who is asked to deliver it, should not give it over to another, unless the other person is implicitly trusted by the owner. If he does, he carries liability if the item is lost.” (291:26; see Pischei Choshen, Pikadon 4:ftnt. 8)
“What if we trusted the neighbor?” asked Penina.
“Bracha is responsible for the necklace in our case even if you trusted her neighbor,” concluded Rabbi, “since she denies having received the necklace and Bracha cannot account for it.”
A week later, Bracha called Penina. “Guess what happened!” she said excitedly. “My cousin, who also works with Shaindy, returned the necklace to me. I must have given it to her instead and she forgot whom she was supposed to give it to!”
Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to email@example.com. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.