A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
Consumer Competition (Part 1)
QUESTION: A person is negotiating the purchase of a house or a car. May
another person come and bid for that item?
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(1) breaks down as follows:
If the buyer and seller have agreed [or are very close to agreeing(2)] on
a price, and there are similar items available on the market, then it is
prohibited for another person to bid for the item.(3) Beis 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.(4) 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.(5) Beis 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.(6)
[A ba'al nefesh, though, should refrain from doing so.(7)]
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(8) if his bid is accepted, there are many poskim
who allow him to bid on the item(9) while other poskim do not accept this
leniency.(10) Although beis 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 on the item.
If, however, the item came 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.(11)
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?
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. Beis 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.(12) Beis din, however, does not have the power to forcibly
terminate the newcomer's employment once he has already obtained it.
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(13);
If it is known that the employer is dissatisfied with his present employee
and is looking for an opportunity to replace him(14);
If the present employee was hired initially only for a limited period of
time and was never really counting on long-term employment(15);
If he does not approach an employer directly but merely advertises his
availability, even though his advertisement may result in the present
employee losing his job.(16)
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.(17) A ba'al nefesh, though, should refrain from
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(18)
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 his job.
Is it permitted for an employer to lure another company's employee
from his present job?
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 above.
1 Our discussion concerning homes covers only sales. The halachos concerning
rentals, especially from non-Jews, are more stringent. A rabbi should be
2 See Pischei Teshuvah 237:3 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 237:1 quoting Perishah,
who maintains that regarding this halachah, as long as the two parties were
near agreement on a price, it is considered as if an agreement was reached.
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.
3 C.M. 237:1. Even if the new bidder did not realize that a previous bid had
been placed on the house, he is still required to withdraw his bid once he
finds out about the previous agreement.
4 If the new bidder did not follow the halachah and bid on the item and now
the seller is ready to sell to him, it is permitted for a third person to
bid on the house at this time; Aruch ha-Shulchan 237:2.
5 In the case when his bid was made while yet unaware of the previous
agreement, some poskim (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).
6 Rama 237:1; Maharshal 36; Masa'as Binyamin 27, based on the view of
Rabbeinu Tam, who permits this type of bidding. According to the Nesivos
237:3, Shulchan Aruch, too, agrees with this ruling.
7 Shulchan Aruch Harav (Hasagas 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 question.
8 This is defined as being a "real bargain," savings that are indisputably
substantial. When it is unclear if the amount being saved is substantial, a
beis din must be consulted.
9 Rama C.M. 237:1; Avnei Nezer C.M. 17. [Igros Moshe C.M. 1:60 seems to rule
in accordance with this view.]
10 Shach 237:3 based on the view of the Ramban; Aruch ha-Shulchan 237:1.
11 Teshuvos Maharshdam 259. See, however, Teshuvos Chasam Sofer C.M. 79, who
seems to disagree. See also Masa'as Binyamin 27, Nachalas Tzvi C.M. 237 and
Minchas Yitzchak 5:77.
12 C.M. 237:2, as explained in Shulchan Aruch Harav (Hasagas Gevul 12).