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Mr. and Mrs. Alter were planning to spend Sukkos with their son Avraham, who lived in another city. Baruch Hashem, there were many grandchildren and the house was quite full.

“See if you can find a neighbor who is away for Sukkos and willing to let us use their apartment,” Mrs. Alter suggested to her son. “We’re willing to pay, since it’s for a lot of days.”

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“It’s OK,” replied Avraham. “We can move the kids around.”

“No, it’s not necessary,” said Mrs. Alter. “Anyway, we prefer a quiet place with privacy.”

After making some phone calls, Avraham was able to find an available apartment. He notified his parents and they arranged to rent the apartment for Sukkos.

On Chol HaMoed, Mr. Alter received a call from the owner of the apartment, Mr. Hauser. “We just wanted to check that everything is OK,” Mr. Hauser said.

“Yes, we’re quite comfortable,” said Mr. Alter. “We really appreciate the opportunity to be with our children and grandchildren. On Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah some additional relatives are coming, and we’re really looking forward to seeing them.”

“You plan on staying in the apartment through Simchas Torah?!” asked Mr. Hauser.

“Of course!” replied Mr. Alter. “We rented the apartment for the duration of Sukkos. That includes Simchas Torah.”

“Why do you say that?” asked Mr. Hauser. “Sukkos is one thing and Simchas Torah is another. We were considering coming home for Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah.”

“But those days are just the end of Sukkos,” replied Mr. Alter. “It’s the same holiday.”

“That’s not true,” objected Mr. Hauser. “We don’t sit in a sukkah on Simchas Torah; we don’t take the lulav and esrog. We agreed to rent the apartment for Sukkos. That doesn’t include Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah.”

“But when people talk about coming for Sukkos, they usually mean the entire holiday,” argued Mr. Alter. “Even if it’s not exactly Sukkos, people think of it as one holiday.”

“Who cares what people think,” replied Mr. Hauser. “It’s what the contract says or the language of the agreement was. If we said ‘Sukkos,’ it means Sukkos; no more.”

“When I said Sukkos,” said Mr. Alter, “I meant Simchas Torah also, without a question.”

The two decided to ask Rabbi Dayan.

“I rented my apartment to Mr. Alter for Sukkos,” said Mr. Hauser. “Does this include Shemini Atzeres?”

“As you know,” replied Rabbi Dayan, “Sukkos itself is seven days, whereas the eighth day, and ninth outside of Israel, is called Shemini Atzeres. While calling it the ‘eighth’ day indicates it is a continuation, the Gemara teaches that Shemini Atzeres is considered an independent festival in six respects. For example: We make a new Shehechiyanu, we don’t call it Sukkos in prayer, and the Mussaf offering is significantly different.” (Rosh Hashanah 4b; Sukkos 48a)

“Nonetheless, in common parlance, Sukkos includes Shemini Atzeres,” continued Rabbi Dayan. “The Ran [Nedarim 49a s.v. Yerushalmi] cites a dispute regarding one who avows wine for the duration of Sukkos and whether he is prohibited also on Shemini Atzeres. The point of the dispute is whether we follow the Torah’s terminology, that Shemini Atzeres is independent, or people’s common parlance, that Shemini Atzeres is included in Sukkos. The halacha is that vows follow people’s parlance and Shemini Atzeres is included in the vow.” (Y.D. 220:20; Shach Y.D. 220:34)

“How does this apply to our question?” asked Mr. Hauser. “Our agreement was for ‘Sukkos.’ Should we not follow the literal meaning?”

“Monetary law, like vows, also follows people’s parlance,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “Thus, if someone sells an item and a question arises about what is included in the sale, we follow the common practice and people’s common parlance at that time and place. This is because the contract reflects people’s common mutual understanding. Therefore, an agreement for Sukkos includes Shemini Atzeres, unless evident otherwise.” (Rashba 4:161; C.M. 215:8)

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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 subscribe@businesshalacha.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 ask@businesshalacha.com.