Excitement was in the air as the 12th Siyum HaShas of the Daf Yomi cycle approached. Mendy, who had joined the Daf seven and-a-half years earlier, eagerly anticipated taking part in this major event at MetLife Stadium along with 93,000 other participants.
Mendy’s wife was due the following week, but he didn’t expect this would affect the Siyum. That morning, however, as Mendy got ready to go to shul, his wife said: “Things have been happeningI’ve been having a lot of contractions throughout during the night. I know you hoped to be at the Siyum this evening, but plan to go to the hospital laterI’d like you to be available today.”
In shul, at the Daf group, Mendy told his neighbor, Ezra: “I bought a yellow $180 ticket to the Siyum tonight, but will not be able to make it. Do you know of anyone who is still looking for a ticket?”
“I have a business associate who is looking for an extra ticket,” said Ezra. “He might be happy to buy it from you.”
“If you can sell it for me, I would very much appreciate it,” said Mendy, “It cost $180, but I’ll sell it for $150, or even $120.”
Ezra called his associate, Mr. Kurz. “Someone in our Daf group has a $180 ticket available ticket,” he said. “Are you interested?”
“Absolutley!” exclaimed Mr. Kurz. “Bring the ticket to the office and I’ll give you the $180.” Ezra decided not to mention that Mendy had only asked for $150.
Ezra took the ticket to work and received the $180. He put aside $150 for Mendy and kept $30 for himself.
“All’s well that ends well,” thought Ezra with satisfaction. “Mr. Kurz got his ticket to the Siyum; Mendy recouped the $150 he wanted; and I earned $30 in the process!”
While driving to the Siyum, Ezra told his chavrusah, who learned regularly in a Business Halacha shiur, what happened with the ticket. “I’m not sure that what you did was right,” said his chavrusah. “Mendy told you to sell the ticket for $150. You had no right to charge Mr. Kurz the extra $30 and should return it to him!”
A lively discussion erupted in the car. Another person said: “Since you sold the ticket for Mendy, whatever you got for it is his! You have to give him the full $180.”
A third passenger said: “I don’t see any problem in what you did. Mendy got his price, and the rest was given to you. You earned it!”
A fourth person suggested: “You and Mendy should split the $30, since you both had a share in it.”
For twenty minutes, they debated the issue back and forth. Finally, Ezra said: “Why don’t we ask Rabbi Dayan at tomorrow’s Daf?”
The following morning, the Daf group assembled, with strengthened numbers, to begin learning Maseches Berachos. Everyone was red-eyed from the previous night’s Siyum but exhilarated from the experience.
When the shiur finished, Ezra said: “A fascinating monetary case came up yesterday, which we debated in the car on the way to the Siyum.” He related the story to Rabbi Dayan.
“What happens with the extra $30?” Ezra asked.
“This question was posed to the Rosh 700 years ago,” Rabbi Dayan replied. “The Rosh [Responsa 105:1], cited by the Tur and Shulchan Aruch [C.M. 185:1], ruled that if the seller stated a certain price and the agent sold for more, the additional money belongs to the seller. Thus, you should give the remaining $30 to Mendy.”
“But why?” asked Ezra. “How is this different from any other business, where the middleman buys and sells for a profit?”
“The reason is because Mendy never sold you the ticket,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “You were simply his agent, or representative to sell. When Mr. Kurz gave you the $180 for the ticket, it was on behalf of Mendy.”
“And why not give the $30 back to Mr. Kurz?” asked Ezra.
“There was no mistake on his part,” said Rabbi Dayan. “He was aware of the item he was buying and of the price he was paying. You were a diligent agent in getting the full price for the seller.”
“But why shouldn’t I be entitled to the $30 difference as a brokerage fee?” asked Ezra.
“A broker is entitled to a fee if he arranges so ahead of time or if that is the standard practice,” said Rabbi Dayan. “Similarly, had Mendy said, ‘Sell for $150 and keep any extra,’ you would get the difference.’ You would then become a shomer sachar [paid guardian) on the ticket, though, if the item had inherent value, and would be responsible for it regarding theft until it was sold [185:4; Shach 185:5].
“Here, however, you simply offered to sell the ticket to Mr. Kurz on Mendy’s behalf,” “so all $180 goes to him.”
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.
About the Author: 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.
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