The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
There he established a decree and an ordinance (14:25)
In Mara they were given the rules of civil law... (Rashi)
BUSINESS COMPETITION BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS: WHEN IS IT PROPER?
QUESTION: A person is negotiating the purchase of a house or a
car. May another person come and bid for the item?
DISCUSSION: Three factors must be determined in order to answer
this question: 1) The extent of the negotiations; 2) The
availability of other homes or cars of similar [or slightly
different] size, location, condition, etc.; 3) The amount of
money that the new bidder will save by buying this item and not
another one which is available to him. Based on these three
factors, the practical halachah breaks down as follows:
If the buyer and seller have agreed [or are very close to
agreeing(1)] on a price, and there are similar items available
on the market, then it is prohibited for another person to bid
for the item(2). Bais din has the right and duty to object to
his bidding and to block him from doing so. If he disregards the
halachah and places a bid anyway, he may be referred to as a
rasha, a wicked person, publicly(3). Even if he has already
bought and taken possession of the item, he is still duty bound
to return it, lest he be referred to as a rasha(4). Bais din,
however, does not have the power to forcibly remove it from his
possession once he has already obtained it.
If the buyer and seller agreed [or are close to agreeing] on a
price, but there are no similar items available on the market,
then it is permitted, according to the basic halachah, for the
new bidder to bid for the item(5). A ba'al nefesh, though,
should refrain from doing so(6).
If the buyer and seller agreed [or are close to agreeing] on a
price, and there are similar items available on the market, but
the new bidder will save a big amount of money(7) if his bid is
accepted, there are many poskim(8) who allow him to bid on the
item while other poskim do not accept this leniency(9). Although
bais din cannot get involved in such a case, a ba'al nefesh
should refrain from entering into this position.
If the buyer and seller did not agree [or come close to
agreeing] on a price, then it is permitted for the new bidder to
put in a bid for the item. If, however, the item cane up for
sale only as a result of the first bidder's effort [e.g., the
first bidder convinced the seller to put the item on the
market], some poskim hold that a newcomer may not come and place
a bid on the item(10).
QUESTION: May a worker offer his services to a prospective
employer knowing full well that he will cause another Jew to
lose his job by replacing him?
DISCUSSION: It is prohibited for one to offer his services to an
employer if he will be taking away another person's job, even if
his intention is to replace him only after the current contract
has expired. Bais din has the right and duty to object to his
behavior and to stop him from doing so. If he disregards the
halachah and does so anyway, he may be referred to as a rasha
publicly(11). Bais din, however, does not have the power to
forcibly terminate the newcomer's employment once he has already
In certain well-defined cases, this restriction does not apply.
Among them are the following:
If an employer asks him specifically to apply for the job(12);
If it is known that the employer is dissatisfied with his
present employee and is looking for an opportunity to replace
If the present employee was hired initially only for a limited
period of time and was never really counting on long-term
If he does not directly approach an employer directly but merely
advertises his availability, even though his advertisement may
result in the present employee losing his job(15).
If, after spending time and effort looking for a job
commensurate with his training and experience, he cannot find
another job, then it is permitted for him to make himself
available to an employer even though a current employee may lose
his job(16). A ba'al nefesh, though, should refrain from doing
A slightly different set of rules will apply when the current
employee is long-term, has established a business relationship
with his employer and has a well-founded assumption and
expectation that the job is his for as long as he is interested
in keeping it. In that case, many poskim(17) maintain that it is
prohibited for a newcomer to directly approach an employer to
hire him, even if the newcomer cannot find any other job.
But this holds true only if other potential employees will also
refrain from offering their services to that particular
employer. If, however, this particular job will attract other
candidates, then there is no obligation for the observant
job-seeker to place himself at a disadvantage and limit his
chances, even though the present long-term employee will lose
QUESTION: Is it permitted for an employer to lure another
company's employee from his present job?
DISCUSSION: It is prohibited for an employer to lure away an
employee from his present job, even if he will not employ him
until his current contract has expired - unless he feels that
this particular employee is superior to any other available
employee on the market.
In a case where an employer and employee have established a
long-term business relationship, and the employer has a
well-founded assumption and expectation that the employee will
remain in his employ indefinitely, many poskim hold that it is
prohibited for another employer to lure the employee away.
However, this holds true only if other potential employers will
not actively recruit this particular employee, as explained
1. See Pischei Teshuvah 237:3 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 237:1 quoting
Perishah, who maintains that as long as the two parties were
near agreement on a price, it is considered as if an agreement
was reached in regards to this halachah. See Igros Moshe C.M.
1:60 who explains that this is the position of the Rama as well.
Shulchan Aruch Harav, however, does not mention this Perishah.
2. C.M. 237:1. Even if the new bidder did not realize that a
previous bid was placed on the house, he is still required to
withdraw his bid once he finds out about the previous agreement.
3. If the new bidder did not follow the halachah and bid on the
item, it is permitted for a third person to bid on the house at
this time - Aruch ha-Shulchan 237:2.
4. In the case when his bid was made while yet unaware of the
previous agreement, some poksim (Pischei Teshuvah; Aruch
ha-Shulchan 237:2) maintain that he cannot be referred to as a
rasha if he refuses to return the house once he has obtained it.
Other poskim, however, disagree and hold that even in that case
he may be referred to as a rasha (Keneses ha-Gedolah, Tur 19;
Igros Moshe C.M. 1:60).
5. Rama 237:1; M'harshal 36; Ma'asas Binyamin 27, based on the
view of R' Tam who permits this type of bidding. According to
the Nesivos 237:3, Shulchan Aruch, too, agrees to this ruling.
6. Shulchan Aruch Harav (Hasogas Gevul 10), Har Tzvi O.C. 2:8 and
Igros Moshe E.H. 1:91 based on the view of Rashi who prohibits
this type of bid. See also Maharal (Nesivos Olam, Nesiv
ha-Tzedek 3) who strongly endorses Rashi's approach to this
7. This is defined as being a "real bargain", savings that are
undisputedly substantial. When it is unclear if the amount being
saved is substantial, a bais din must be consulted.
8. Rama C.M. 237:1; Avnei Nezer C.M. 17. [Igros Moshe C.M. 1:60
seems to rule in accordance with this view.]
9. Shach 237:3 based on the view of the Ramban; Aruch ha-Shulchan
10. Teshuvos M'Rashdam 259. See, however, Teshuvos Chasam Sofer
C.M. 79 who seems to disagree. See also Masa'as Binyamin 27,
Nachlas Tzvi C.M. 237 and Minchas Yitzchak 5:77.
11. C.M. 237:2 as explained in Shulchan Aruch Harav (Hasogas