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Shabbat Parashat Vayigash 5777

P'ninat Mishpat: Sub-Par Guest House Experience? part I

(based on ruling 73030 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl) runs a guesthouse, which hosted a group of students in a program organized by an informal education resource organization (=def). Def’s representative #1 (later replaced by rep. #2), who had stayed at the guesthouse before, negotiated after receiving a brochure about pl’s services. The group came for Shabbat with approximately 40 people for a price of 4,500 shekels for lodgings and 2,500 shekels for food, after giving a 3,500 shekel down payment. The group came closer to Shabbat than envisioned, without the group’s leader, and complaints were raised about lack of room. Some students were supposed to sleep on mattresses, and bedding was available, but many did not find them and slept without bedding or on the floor. The same is true of disposable utensils. Food was available for seuda shlishit as well, but the group did not take it. A representative of pl testified that on Friday, he showed a school staff member where all provisions were. Another major complaint was that pl did not have a kashrut certificate. (Some of the staff and of the girls did not eat pl’s food for that reason or because they did not like it). On Motzaei Shabbat, def refused to pay the fee’s balance (3,500 shekels) due to the things they claimed were missing (some will be mentioned in the ruling). Def is countersuing for 6,500 shekels – for return of the down payment and for the cost for an apartment that a staff member took for his family when he saw there was no room for them. While there were issues to be worked out between the school and def, they were not brought before beit din.


Ruling: We will begin with two points that explain a major cause of the confusion that existed over Shabbat. The representative who made the reservation, discussed details, and had experienced the guest house, did not make the final arrangements. Second, def did not send a representative to smooth out any issues before and during Shabbat, but relied on the school to handle things with pl, between whom there had been no previous discussions. Therefore, there were conflicting expectations, and they were not handled openly or effectively.

There are two general criteria for what a service provider must live up to: 1. that which was agreed to explicitly; 2. in the absence of agreement, normal standards within the society in question. 

Kashrut certificate – when the proprietor is an unquestionably religious person, not always is there a demand that he have a formal kashrut certificate. No one claimed that they personally asked pl whether he had one or that he had said he did. He only said that the food is kosher. When the issue arose between the school and pl, he showed them the packages of the packaged food, and indeed they all were kosher supervised, and he claimed to have done all the cooking. The rabbi of the group said that under the circumstances, it was permitted to eat, and therefore, whoever did not eat cannot blame it on pl. There were no indications that the food was not edible to a reasonable degree.

We continue with further discussion next week.

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