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Shabbat Parashat Devarim 5782

P'ninat Mishpat: Questionable Promises to Kollel Students part I

(based on ruling 71063 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: A group of kollel students (=pl), formerly of a certain kollel (=def), have claims about def’s alleged failures to keep promises to them. [We will deal with different claims separately.] Pl did not receive any stipend for their last August, even though it contained days of their studies and final vacation days and the fact that when they arrived at def, they began receiving stipends only in September. They also claimed that pl received per-student governmental financial support for pl through August. Def has no specific claim and is happy to do whatever beit din considers correct. Pl also claim that def promised 1,000 NIS a month to those who learned with students from a school with which they shared a building but that they received only 500 NIS a month for it. Def responds that the amount they received from the school was insufficient to give more than they did. 


Ruling: 1. The month of August – When a worker is paid for a year’s work, and he completes it, he is entitled to a full year of salary (see Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 312:1; Pitchei Choshen, Sechirut 7:1). There is a machloket if an avreich (kollel student) has a status of a worker. On the one hand, he is to receive money not for what he does but for not taking other jobs at that time, so that he is not a salaried worker (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 246:5, Piskei Din Yerushalayim VIII, pg. 365). Shevet Halevi (VIII, 315) and others say that, at least at times, they are considered workers. However, all seem to agree that if pl did as required until the end of the year, def must pay until then. In most cases, including this, this is until the end of the month of Av (including vacation). However, Av ended on Aug. 10, so that most of Aug. belonged to the coming year, and indeed pl proved that they paid incoming students for Aug. We do not accept pl’s claim that since stipends are paid according to the secular month, the year is also determined in that way. Pl will only receive the part of their stipends that comes from the government, since def did not provide documentation that it stopped before Aug.

2. Def presented a contract with the school, which required def to provide six avreichim who would teach for five hours a week and the school would give place for def’s studies, but def had to pay insurance for the accommodations. For the first fifteen months, the school’s contribution was 42,000 NIS. Only if the arrangement would continue would the school give 1,000 NIS per month per avreich. It works out, then, that the funds def received were enough for less than 500 NIS per avreich per month. Therefore, pl should be thankful that def took from its own budget to add as much as it did to pl, and they are not entitled to more for their teaching than the 500 NIS monthly they received.

Next time we will deal with the fallout from a special program that def had pl enter.

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