Hebrew | Francais


> > Archive

Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo 5778

Ask the Rabbi: Paying for Unscheduled Entertainment

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: I witnessed the following scenario years ago and have wondered about the halacha. During a wedding, a talented entertainer dressed in full costume with remote-controlled dancing puppets burst onto the dance floor.  He gave a performance, which the guests thoroughly enjoyed, for 10 minutes. Each set of parents assumed the other had arranged and paid for the surprise or that it was a guest in disguise. After it was over, the entertainer approached the mechutanim and demanded payment. One of the sides paid, breaking their budget. Did they have to pay? What can we learn from the answer about other cases?


Answer: Since this case is no longer practical, we can discuss more freely both principles, and possible arguments relating to this specific case.

There are two bases for obligation to pay for a service one person provides to another: agreement to pay; payment for neheneh (benefit). One of the major sources about pay for neheneh is the gemara (Bava Metzia 101a), which discusses someone who planted trees in his friend’s field without permission. The gemara concludes that if the field is fit for planting, we estimate how much the work is worth, and if it is not, the worker gets the lower of possible payments. According to Rashi (ad loc.) and the S’ma (375:2), this means the lower between expenses outlaid and benefit provided. In other words, when there is benefit but it was not done in a way that should be appreciated, there is no payment beyond expenses.

There are subjective factors that help determine whether a job was called for. For one, the Rama (Choshen Mishpat 375:4) rules that if the field that was planted was owned by a man who usually does the work himself, the outside help is considered largely uncalled for. Even though most people would appreciate the work, the main benefit is saving the owner from hiring another worker, so when he does his own work, the owner only has to pay for the benefit of not having to toil. In the other direction, according to the Shulchan Aruch (CM 375:3) if the owner “built on” the work that was done, he cannot subsequently claim that he did not gain from it. The Shach (ad loc. 3) cites dissenters. One has to weigh the circumstances in each case.

Let us analyze your case. One could claim that the work was done with the beneficiaries’ knowledge, and therefore they should be responsible. However, this is wrong because their silent acquiescence was based on a misunderstanding, and agreement b’ta’ut does not obligate. The lack of protest could have some significance. There is an opinion that even when a recipient did benefit, he is exempt if he warned that he refuses to pay (see discussion in Pitchei Choshen, Sechirut 8:(64)), and here they at least did not warn.

Should we characterize the performance as fitting, since people enjoyed it, and enjoyment is valued at weddings? I have attended many weddings and am hard-pressed to remember such a performance. Most people pay good money for a band, and participants often do creative shtik, but professional shtik is uncommon in the circles I know, even at weddings at which expense is not a factor. Therefore, it would be difficult for the entertainer to prove that he deserves more than a return of expenses, which are presumably small.

Furthermore, benefit refers to net benefit (e.g., regarding the field, the vegetation planted must be preferable to alternatives). Even if many people enjoyed, others could have been appalled by such a childish performance at a wedding. Also, the time taken on it may have taken away from “valuable” eating, dancing, interacting, etc. time. Therefore, it is again hard to ascertain that there was benefit.

In all, it is unlikely that the families could be forced to pay any significant amount of money for this uninvited performance. Although the propriety of the entertainer’s actions was very questionable, paying him a not insulting amount might have been a proper act of chessed and/or avoiding machloket. (Others might argue that such a person must not be encouraged to do such things.)
Top of page
Print this page
Send to friend


We daven for a complete and speedy refuah for:

Leah Rachel bat Chana

Meira bat Esther

Rivka Reena bat Gruna Natna

David Chaim ben Rassa

Lillian bat Fortune

Yafa bat Rachel Yente

Eliezer Yosef ben Chana Liba

Ro'i Moshe Elchanan ben Gina Devra

Together with all cholei Yisrael


Hemdat Yamim is dedicated

to the memory of:

those who fell in wars

for our homeland

Eretz Hemdah's beloved friends

and Members of

Eretz Hemdah's Amutah

Rav Shlomo Merzel z”l
Iyar   10

Rav Reuven Aberman z"l

Tishrei 9 5776

Mr. Shmuel Shemesh  z"l
Sivan 17 5774

R' Eliyahu Carmel z"l

Rav Carmel's father

Iyar 8 5776

Mrs. Sara Wengrowsky

bat R’ Moshe Zev a”h.

Tamuz 10   5774

Rav Asher Wasserteil z"l

Kislev 9 5769

R'  Meir ben

Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld z"l

R'  Yaakov ben Abraham & Aisha


Chana bat Yaish & Simcha

Sebbag, z"l

Rav Yisrael Rozen z"l
Cheshvan 13, 5778

Rav Benzion Grossman z"l
Tamuz 23 5777


Rav Moshe Zvi (Milton)

Polin z"l

Tammuz 19, 5778


Mr. Isaac Moinester z"l

5 Elul

Mrs. Doris Moinester

a"h Elul 23

Hemdat Yamim
is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker
of Chicago, Illinois
in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker
Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l

site by entry.
Eretz Hemdah - Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies, Jerusalem All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy. | Terms of Use.