Competition in Halacha - Part 2 - Chelkas Yaakov

Another case of competition came up in America in 1953.  The question was directed to R. Mordechai Yaakov Breisch.  He was born in Poland in 1896 and served as the rabbi of a number of communities in Poland and Germany. In 1934 he fled from the Nazis and settled in Switzerland, where he served as the rabbi of the Jewish community, strengthening the community and its educational institutions. He passed away in 1977.

שו"ת חלקת יעקב חושן משפט סימן ט

וז"ל השאלה ראובן ושמעון קנו מסעדה לישיבה והשקיעו בה ממון והכל על סמך שבני הישיבה יקנו אצלם, ובאמת רוב התלמידים והרבנים הר"מים הבטיחו להם אז לקנות, וכה נמשך הדבר ג' שנים והתפרנסו מזה שני השותפים והנהיגו הכל בתכלית הכשרות אמיתית כראוי לבני הישיבה. כעת עמד תלמיד אחד מבני הישיבה שמכר עד עתה בין כותלי הישיבה רק תה עם דבשנים והתחיל למכור גם שאר דברים הנמכרים בלנצונט, והשותפים תובעים אותו לד"ת באשר שמשיג גבולם ומפסיק לחיותם לגמרי, כי מבלי פדיון בני הישיבה אין המסעדה שוה מאומה, והבעה"ב מהישיבה הם נטרלים בדבר, רק כפי שיופסק עפיד"ת כן יקום דבר. השותפים טוענים אם הי' מנגדם פותח לו חנות מחוץ לכותלי הישיבה החרישו, כי אז לא הי' למנגדם עילוי מהם כי התלמיד הי' מוכרח לצאת מכותלי הישיבה חוצה ולאן שיחפוץ ילך והכל בהשגחה, אבל עתה שפתח לו חנות בבית הישיבה גופא, הוא פוסק ממש חיותם, כי מן הנמנע שיעזוב תלמיד אהלו של תורה לצאת החוצה עכ"ל השאלה.

And this is the question: Reuven and Shimon purchased a restaurant for the yeshiva and invested money in it, all with the understanding that the yeshiva students would purchase from them.  In reality, most of the students and rabbis and instructors promised at that time to patronize the facility.  Three years has past and the two partners have earned a living from this and they have maintained standards of kashrus appropriate for the students of the yeshiva.  Recently, one of the students, who until now had been selling tea and sweets, has begun to sell other things that are available in a luncheonette.  The partners in the restaurant have taken the student to a din torah with a claim of financial interloping and that the student is completely disrupting their livelihood, as without the funds from the yeshiva students, their restaurant has no value.  The leadership of the yeshiva is neutral on the question and will respect whatever decision is reached by the Din Torah.  The partners argue that if their opponent had opened a facility outside of the walls of the yeshivam they would have been silent, since he would have had no advantage over them, since in either case the students would have had to leave the yeshiva.  But now that he has a store inside the yeshiva, he is absolutely interfering with their livelihood, as now the students will refrain from leaving the tent of Torah to go outside.

We’ve seen that the most important relevant previous תשובה on the topic was by the Rama in connection with the Maharam Padua copyright case in which the Rama comes down absolutely in support of restricting competition when the damage to the existing business was assured.  Clearly, if we follow this line of thought, we would be compelled to prohibit the expansion of the in-house service.  The only advantage that our תלמיד would have would be that he had already been serving tea and cakes before the luncheonette had been established.

How does the חלקת יעקוב rule? There are two halves to his comments – one relating to the factual matters of the case and the other relating to Halachic interpretation and precedent – primarily the תשובה of the Rama.
On a factual level, he notes the following:

 וקשה להאמין שחשק אי ביטול תורה לאיזה זמן יהי' כל כך אצל כל בני הישיבה, עד שיוותרו כלם על עילויו של לונצונט השני, עד שתהי' בכלל פסקי' חיותו.

...it's hard to believe that the students' desire to not waste a moment of learning is so great that all of them will desist from going to the other luncheonette so that the livelihood of its owners will be completely eliminated...

Second,

... כיון שהרמי"ם אין להם שום נפמ"נ באיזה מקום יקנו אכלם, ז"א דגם אם תהי' להתלמידים אפשרות לקנות אוכלם בפנים הישיבה, יש להם רשות לילך החוצה לבקש אוכלם כאוות נפשם,

...since the instructors have no preference over where anyone buys food, this facet of the complaint is also invalid because even though the students have the possibility of buying their food inside the yeshiva, they have permission to leave and get their food as they desire...

Nobody cares if the students leave the building.  If they want to buy from the luncheonette, they can.  Perhaps the food there is cheaper or better.

On a Halachic level, he claims that the basic attributes of the case are different from the classical case of the miller at the entrance to the alley.  In that case, the concern was that people would see the miller at the entrance of the alley, not know that there was a competitor down the road and therefore never use him. That is certainly not the case here – everyone inside knows there’s another vendor just outside the door.

First, Rav Breisch says, listen, what was the case of the Rama?  He was dealing with a non-Jew who had breached copyright for the sole purpose of causing financial loss both to the first non-Jewish printer and to the Maharam Padua.  The Rama was going to do whatever he could to support and justify his ruling supporting the Maharam Padua, even if he didn’t consider the argument terribly strong.  So just because he included a discussion of the restraint-of-trade halacha from the גמרא doesn’t mean that he necessarily believed it.  In other words – we absolutely have to look at the context of the תשובה in order to see whether the principals being laid down are applicable to a future case.

Let’s assume though that the Rama did firmly believe that his Halachic analysis of the Rav Huna/Rav Huna bray D Reb Yehoshua case was firm.  Let me ask you – someone comes to you and argues that Rama holds like the restrictive view because he knows the תשובה by heart.  Is the guy a תלמיד חכםor an Am HaAretz?  We didn’t go through the Rama’s תשובה in detail, but the discussion of free entry was one of a number of points that the Rama used to support his position.  There is a general principle in halacha that is, says Rav Breisch:

וידועים דברי החכ"צ כשגאון אחד כותב איזה סניף לתשובה עם שאר סניפים בתשובה הלזו שאין לסמוך על סעיף זה לחודי' דאפשר העיקר סמך על טעמים האחרים

..the words of the Chacham Tzvi are known that when a posek writes one justification for a decision along with other justifications, one may not rely on the one justification alone because it is possible that the primary basis for the opinion is because of the other justifications.

So once there is more than one reason for a psak, you’re not allowed to pull out any single one of the jusitifications and let it stand on its own, because it is entirely possible that the reason you are looking at is not the primary explanation of the psak.  Very very important point.  If that’s the case, you cannot pull out any single explanation from a complex psak and use it on its own for any reason.  So even if the Rama really believed what he was writing, it is completely irrelevant unless all of the other סניפים are also present in the case you are dealing with.

Rav Breisch then continues a step further - asserting not only that the Rama might not have been completely serious in his responsum in which he supports the restrictive view of the אביאסף, not only that even if he was, it doesn't set precedent because it was only one basis for his ruling among many, but he continues and asserts that even if he did consider it to be the basic justification for his opinion, it still doesn't matter in a halachic context:

אכן בשו"ע ברמ"א חו"מ סימן קנ"ו הגהה א' מבואר להדיא דאף במבוי שאינו מפולש אין יכול למחות ולומר את פוסק חיי ולא מחלק בשם אם פותח חנותו לפניו או לאחריו, ומשמע להדיא דעת הרמ"א דאין חילוק ואף במבוי סתום אי"א לו למחותו.

..in the Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat Siman 156, Seif 1 the Rama specifically states that in the case of a closed alleyway one may not object to a competitor opening a business by claiming interference with one's own livelihood, and the Rama makes no distinction about the location of the competitive shop within the alleyway and it is implicit that it does not matter.

So we have a contradiction in the Rama!  In his responsum, he follows the lead of the Aviasaf in trying to follow the restrictive rule.  In his commentary in the Tur called the דרכי משה he appears to reiterate his ruling from the responsum and in the  שולחן ערוך he seems to rule the exact opposite.  How do we decide which ruling is the more authoritative?

First, as far as Ashkenazim are concerned, the Rama is the primary פוסק אחרון.  But he composed at least 3 major works – his glosses on the שולחן ערוך, his responsa and a commentary on the Tur called הדרכי משה.  Do we treat them all the same, or is there a hierarchy?

אפשר האשכנזים קבלו עליהם לפסוק כהרמ"א רק מה שכתוב בהגהות ולא בד"מ, ובפרט היכא דסותר עצמו

...it is entirely possible that when the Ashkenazim accepted upon themselves to follow the rulings of the Rama, they intended that acceptance to apply only to what is in his glosses to the Shulchan Aruch and not to the Darchei Moshe, particularly if the two are in conflict.

He also considers the possibility that the text of the דרכי משה is corrupted –

 ואף דגם בד"מ סי' קנ"ו מביא ג"כ דברי האביאסף, בבי"א סי' כ"ו האריך להוכיח דזה אינו מד"מ, רק איזה חכם הגיה כן בגליון הד"מ והכניסהו אח"כ לפנים, כי יש בידו ד"מ הארוך כתב יד ולא נמצא שם כלל עי"ש.

Further, even though the Darchei Moshe in Siman 156 quotes the אביאסף, the  בי"א in Siman 26 writes extensively that this statement is not from the Darchei Moshe, rather one scholar noted it in the margins and it was then interpolated into the text, since he has a manuscript of the Darchei Moshe and the item is not there at all.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what the בי"א that Rav Breisch is citing is.  As of today, I have not been able to track it down.  Nevertheless, he is telling us that when it came time for codification, the Rama never intended to follow the restrictive view that would prohibit competitive entry.

Second.  we know what year the resposum was written – 1550 – that’s clear. When did he write his glosses to the שולחן ערוך? Was it before or after this opinion?  How would I know?  Do I have to rely on academic scholarship dating manuscripts and the like or do I have an easier way?  I have an easier way.  We can cite the Rama himself:

שולחן ערוך חושן משפט סימן סז סעיף א
ובחשבון שנת השמיטה נפלה מחלוקת, והעיקר ששנת ש"כ ושנת שכ"ז היתה שמיטה, ואם כן יהיה שנת של"ד הבע"ל שמיטה, יהי רצון שיבנה בית המקדש ויחזרו אז למנות שמיטין ויובלות

...and a dispute about the date of the Sabbatical year, and the primary opinion is that the years 5320 and 5327 were Sabbatical years; in that case the year 5334 will be a Sabbatical year...

In other words, the years 1559-60 and 1566-67 were Sabbatical years and 1573-74 will be the next one. So, the opinion he expresses in the שולחן ערוך is obviously his later view and is therefore authoritative; that being the case, we can put aside the earlier ruling. 

Based on all of this, Rav Breisch rules that the luncheonette cannot prevent the תלמיד from expanding his menu and permits the competition, even though it might reduce the income of the luncheonette.  To do this he proves that the Rama’s earlier ruling is either irrelevant, superceded or not meaningful.  Once he demonstrates that the Rama was either (a) not entirely serious in his earlier ruling, that (b) even though he is the Rama and even if he believed the rationale in his ruling, we are not bound by it because he either (i) changed his mind; (ii) the ruling is not part of what Bnai Ashkenaz accepted upon themselves when they accepted the Rama as פוסק אחרון, (iii) the specific point in the original p’sak is meaningless because we cannot cite a single סניף out of many.  Therefore, we can put aside the Rama’s ruling; once we do that, the underlying ruling that HE cited of the Aviasaf loses its authoritative status and we find ourselves back into the normative Halachic world of the majority of rishonim who follow standard Halachic practice in following the free-entry view of Rav Huna b R Yehoshua as the later of the two Talmudic opinions.

 

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Last Revised February 14, 2011
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