Aug 16, 2011

Interesting Psak: Discounted Tzimmer Because Of Cancelation

The headline in Bechadrei on this report calls the avreich a ramai, a cheat. I think that is unfair, considering what actually happened, as per the report, and the psak he received.

It seems an entire extended family from Bnei Braq, of 5 brothers and their families, got together and reserved a set of 5 tzimmers, summer bungalow homes in northern Israel. By doing so, they ensured privacy for their group, consisting completely of family members, and private use of the onsite pool. As part of the agreement when making the reservations, it was agreed that they would be able to cancel reservations up to a month before the date, giving the owner enough time to find new vacationers without taking a loss.

Sure enough, one of the brothers had to cancel due to suddenly having to take a trip to the United States. The owner knew he would have to take a loss on the one house, as nobody would rent out that one house knowing they would be in the middle of a family group using the rest of the site and the pool. At best he would be able to rent it out at a seriously discounted price.

Eventually, this fellow's trip to the US was canceled. Being that he was now available, he wanted to join his extended family and go with them on the trip up north. he called the owner of the tzimmer site, anonymously, and asked how much renting a house would cost and if a house would be available on the relevant dates.

The owner responded saying that the other houses are rented out to a family group, but one is still available. The fellow asked if he would have to pay full price, considering the family.. and the owner said he would give him a 50% discount... At that price he booked the tzimmer.

And then his conscience made him feel uncomfortable. He called Rav Zilbershtein, the rav of Ramat Elchonon in Bnei Braq who told over the incident in a shiur, to ask if what he did was ok or not. Rav Zilbershtein said that he was fine and it was smart because when he originally canceled he did so innocently without plans to cheat the owner. Considering how it happened, it was all done honestly, with no deception.

Rav Zilbershtein explained further that the tzimmer has a market value. In this situation the market value of this tzimmer was worth less. There is no reason to pay more than the market value.

According to Bechadrei, this incident and psak is being discussed all over Bnei Braq, and other rabbonim are saying they would pasken differently.

So, in my opening paragraph I say that the headline is wrong because it calls him a cheater, but according to the psak he is not a cheater. What he did, according to rav Zilbershtein, was perfectly ok.

19 comments:

  1. Except that maybe Rav Zilberstein may be wrong and this is naval birshut hatorah - the kind of behavior that gives frum people a bad name as being always out to con you with a clean and even holy conscience supported by shurat hadin. As we learned on Tisha BeAv, the hurban only happened because they were posek lfi shurat haddim.

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  2. could be. it sounds wrong and deceptive. but I see the logic of Rav Zilbershtein.

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  3. According to Dinei Mamonos, the Psak may be correct, but it is morally repugnant. There are also Halachos of Chilul Hashem.

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  4. I'm with the previous commenters. I would likely tell someone that technically they are off the hook; but I sense a real potential for hillul hashem and don't advise this. Looks like the avreichs conscience was working only half-way when it kicked in. I see the business law question (interesting, actually); but why didn't common sense tell him this is just not good? I can tell you that in my house, my wife would insist that I pay the original rate just for that reason. Hopefully, I would think of that without her.

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  5. If he is so bothered, certainly he would be allowed to pay full price

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  6. And people wonder why there are major ethical lapses in the "frum" the community? And why there minyanim of "white collar" criminals in jail?

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  7. Also, WADR and assuming you reported the case accurately, the Rav's metzious is incorrect. The "market value" of the Tzimmer is based on the fact that it was assumed that the occupants would not have access to the pool. Based on that fact alone, and you don't need a Rav for this, either this guy should pay full price or not use the pool.

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  8. In other words, genevas da'as, to pretend that one is NOT a family member and that one will therefore NOT be able to use the pool is OK?

    Ask Rav Zilbershtein if he is allowed to use the pool, considering that the owner never granted him that his rental did not include that privilege.

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  9. I dont see why he wouldnt be able to use the pool. the discount was because the environment would be uncomfortable, being in the middle of a family vacation, scheduling use of the pool for when the others wouldnt be using it, etc.

    unless the owner said the pool is unavailable and therefore the discount, I see no reason not to use the pool

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  10. The implication in your telling of the tale is that this gang was basically to take over the use of the facilities. To be ethically honest and take the discount he would have to pretend as if he were a stranger to these people.

    Maybe it's possible that there would be a time that they wouldn't be using the facilities when he could. In theory.

    Of course this line of thinking is only trying to go along the lines of the Rav's Psak.

    The fundamental problem here is that the guy lied to the owner by pretending to be anonymous and then compounding that lie by wasting a Rabbi's time by asking a Shayla about this breach in ethics. (The Rav's psak is a separate and troubling issue.)

    It's so telling and sad that there is even a discussion about what this guy should do. IMHO, this is exactly what Ramban was talking about in his interpretation of Kedoshim Tihiyu, ie this person is a classic Menuval B'Reshut Hatorah.

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. cheater. he's forgetting the 5th chelek of shulchan aruch

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  13. I think this is one of those cases where you need to ask one question:

    If the places were reversed how would I want to be treated.

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  14. I agree. It looks lousy. Especially because he called anonymously, rather than calling using his real name and asking for a discount.

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  15. Rafi,

    Psak halacha like this will ensure that such morally questionable behavior continues.

    The gezaira of the dor hamabul was sealed because of chamas...gezel.

    If the guy was willing to pay the price before his trip to the US then he should be prepared to do the same after.

    There are many well known stories involving Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky where the Kiddush HaShem aspect of the story influenced his psak.

    I'm certain that these same people pay extra for mehudar kashrus, mehudar tzitzis, mehudar esrog, etc.

    Why aren't they prepared for mehudar bein adom l'chavairo?

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  16. I would like to begin by stating that I agree that lemaaseh, one definitely shouldn't do this and I certainly wouldn't myself, however the whole point of the Rav's psak was whether it was technically muttar or assur, and he answered that it was muttar. You can't assur something to someone because of naval birshus haTorah, although I would hope that one should advise them not to go through with it. However, several commenters seem to be taking this a bit overboard. Comparing this case to "white collar criminals" is simply a false comparison; one is clearly assur whereas one is, at least according to Rav Zilberstein shlita, technically permitted. Again, I agree that the fact that this case was even brought up publicly demonstrates a real lacking in the Torah world for sensitivity towards others and understanding how something can be technically muttar but is not something a Ben Torah should be doing, especially in monetary matters, but if it's muttar, it's muttar and it's difficult to fault another person for this. As an aside, has anyone else noticed that some strange psakim have come out recently in the name of Rav Zilberstein? Perhaps we should be dan lekaf zechus on the Rav that his psakim are not being transmitted to the public accurately. As always, one should consult their own rabbi on these issues (if I was your rabbi I would tell you to be honest).

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  17. Rav Zilbershtein frequently gives "unusual" or perhaps unique is a better word, piskei halacha. he has many shiurim on kol hadaf (I think thats the one), and after a few reports I checked in the shiurim and they were reported correctly.
    However, it may very well be that he is only giving an overview of the case and not relating all the details.

    I have a friend who listens to the shiurim regularly and sometimes we discuss in our shiur some of the psakim he mentions he heard from Rav Zilbershteins shiurim. They are often not what you would expect and cause much discussion.

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  18. The following links to the audio of Rav Zilershtein's psak as to the girl cutting herself for the sake of tznius. Use the embedded gadget.

    http://menachemmendel.net/blog/2011/07/06/rabbi-zilberstein-on-girl-cutting-herself/

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  19. anonynous,

    One can find a rov to matir any type of white collar gezel if that's you're only point. kiddush hashem and chillul hashem are part of the psak haalacha, not just the choshen mishpat section. There are many piskei halacha where in Choshen mishpat it's muytar, but then assured due to chillul hashem.

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