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Shabbat Parashat Yitro| 5764

Pninat Mishpat

Distancing Damages – V - Encroaching on Another’s Livelihood
 We have seen that even though we are concerned with the damage that one neighbor causes to another, we need to counterbalance the negative consequences of being overly restrictive on the “damagers” lifestyle. This concept of balancing helps explain other, related halachot.  Within the discussion of damages among neighbors, the gemara (BavaBatra 21b) brings up the issue of opening a business, which is in competition to an existing one.
 One of the major factors that determines when it is or isn’t permitted to open up a second business is if the owner of the new business is from the same area of the city (bar mavo’ah). Since when is one neighbor allowed to steal from or damage his friend, while a more distant person cannot? The Yad Rama (ad loc.) explains that in addition to the first business owner’s concern for maintaining his livelihood, there is a counter concern that other neighbors have an opportunity to make a living. If the first one to open a business gets a monopoly, then others will quickly run out of options. In contrast, people from other areas can be instructed to exercise their natural option, which is to open their business either in a place where such a business does not exist or in their own area.
 Other local concerns are addressed, as well. The Rama (Choshen Mishpat 156:7) rules that if a merchant is providing an inferior product or charging a higher price, then an outsider can come in to compete. It is not fair that one person’s rights to livelihood should overpower the community’s rights to receiving the right products and services at the right price.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is
dedicated to the memory of R’ Meir  ben
Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.

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