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Hilchos Choshen Mishpat

Volume II : Number 19

Taking Turns


Question:

A. In a certain synagogue an agreement has been made that Reuven and Shimon will share the responsibility to blow Shofar each year. Reuven is to blow on the first day of Rosh Hashana, and Shimon is to blow on the second day. What should they do when the first day of Rosh Hashana falls out on Shabbos, and the Halacha is that we do not blow? Does Reuven blow the Shofar since he is supposed to blow first, or do we say that since every year Shimon blows on the second day he does so this year also?

B. Reuven made an appointment to have a non-emergency operation done with an expert surgeon three months in advance. On the day that the operation was scheduled for, it was canceled because the operating room was not available due to unforeseen circumstances.

Reuven is asking whether he has a right (according to Halacha) to request that he be taken first the following day, and cause all of the patients on line after him to reschedule their operations, or does he have to "go to the back of the line" and wait another three months for his operation?


Answer:

  1. A. In Question A, Shimon should blow on Sunday (the second day of Rosh HaShana) as he usually does every year. However, it would be proper for him to allow Reuven to blow the last thirty sounds, since these sounds are blown as a custom and are not part of the Mitzvah of blowing Shofar. (1)

  2. B. Regarding Question B, Reuven (the patient) has lost his turn, and will have to reschedule his procedure. However, if there should be any cancellations it would be proper that he have first rights to the slot that has become available. (2)


Sources:

(1) The Gemara In Succah (55a) states that although there were special Psalms sung by the Leviim during Chol HaMoed (intermediate days) of Succos, unique to each day, if one of the days would fall on Shabbos, the Psalm for Shabbos (Mizmor Shir L'Yom HaShabbos) would be sung, and each subsequent day they would continue in order. This means that during the years that one of the days of Chol HaMoed would be Shabbos, the last day's psalm would not be sung.

Based on this Gemara, the Teshuvos Ponim Meiros (Vol. 2 Siman 126) deduces that the Torah approach is that when there are turns being taken, similar to the "turns" for the Psalm of the day ordained by our Chaza"l, and someone's turn was preempted, he should take the next available turn, and the person with the last turn should lose his turn entirely. Therefore, he concludes that in our case the person who was supposed to blow Shofar on the first day should blow on the second, and the person who was supposed to blow on the second should not blow at all.

However, the Shaarei Teshuva (Orach Chaim 581:7) disagrees, and says that there can be no comparison between the Psalms sung by the Leviim and our case. When discussing the order of prayers or Psalms, the overriding issue is in what manner were they were instituted by our Chaza'l, and which ones have priority. Therefore, the Gemara in Succah teaches us that when one of the prayers are preempted and we aren't sure whether to continue in order or skip the preempted one, we should continue in order. This is because the prayers and Psalms that were instituted to be read in the beginning of Succos are the more important ones, and take priority over the later ones.

The overriding issue regarding determining the Baal Tokeah, however, is entirely different. When a person has established a time when he blows Shofar, or performs any Mitzvah on behalf of others, he has acquired a right (Chazakah) that is Halachically his, and may not be taken away by others. Therefore, when Reuven established a Chazakah to blow on the first day, he acquired the right to that day and it's unique characteristics, i.e. that the obligation to blow is Torah ordained, although he will not have the chance to do so every year. Shimon has acquired the right to blow on the day that the obligation is Rabbinic, although he is guaranteed that he will not be preempted by Shabbos, since Rosh Hashana can never fall on Friday according to our present Jewish calendar. Therefore, it should be considered that each one has a separate Chazakah on separate Mitzvos, since each one has it's own unique qualities, and Shimon should retain his right to always blow on the second day of Rosh Hashana.

(2) Regarding a doctor's appointment it would seem that even the Teshuvos Ponim Meiros would agree that the patient does not acquire the right to always be "next on line", rather he has only the right to the specific time for which his appointment was scheduled. This is clear from the fact that people commonly schedule appointments for the time which is most convenient for them, even if there may be an earlier appointment available. Therefore, when a person schedules a slot, he is not merely taking his turn on line, rather, he "owns" that set time that has been scheduled for him. It follows, then, that a patient who has had their appointment canceled can not argue that he should precede everyone else on line.

Additionally, it can be assumed that the office personnel scheduling the appointments have no interest in allowing this patient to take the next turn, causing them to have to reschedule all of the patients that follow. It is much simpler for them to give him the next available time slot. Therefore, when granting the appointment they intended merely to afford him this time slot, and not the right to precede everyone else on line in the event of cancellation (even though it is through no fault of his), as this would cause them extra work and inconvenience. However, if there would be another cancellation that would enable them to reschedule this patient sooner and not have to go to the end of the line, he should be given priority over the other patients that came later for this slot.

All of the above is accurate only when the doctor does not have a specific rescheduling policy for cancellations. If he does, or even if this specific doctor does not have a policy, but there is a certain customary policy among doctors in that community (Minhag HaMakom), it should be assumed that all appointments were scheduled based on those policies and they should be followed.

Feedback is appreciated! It can be sent toatendler@torah.org.


This week's class is based on a column by Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz, who is an Av Bais Din and Rosh Kollel in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem. His Column originally appears in Hebrew in Toda'ah, a weekly publication in Jerusalem. It has been translated and reprinted here with his permission and approval.

We hope you find this class informative and stimulating! If you do not see a subscription form to the left of the screen, access the Advanced Learning Network to subscribe to Business-Halacha.

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Please Note: The purpose of this column is to make people aware of Choshen Mishpat situations that can arise at any time, and the Halachic concepts that may be used to resolve them. Each individual situation must be resolved by an objective, competent Bais Din (or Rabbinic Arbitrator) in the presence of all parties involved!

 


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