General Advice

1. Question:

A particular girl was suggested as a potential Shiduch, and thank God it worked out. To my surprise, however, my friend asked me to pay him the $2000 Shadchan fee, and he quoted the following Halacha. I don’t have that type of money and I would never have agreed to pay it. Isn’t this extortion? He tells me that the author of this halacha is “Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, shlita, member of the Badatz of Crown Heights”:

A shadchan, one who arranges a shidduch, match, should be paid for their work. There is a clear halachah in Shulchan Aruch that a shadchan should be paid a brokerage fee, as any other type of broker. The amount to be paid is determined by minhag hamokom, according to the going rate in that community. Moreover, when one asks a shadchan to arrange a shidduch, the shadchan acquires the halachic status of an employee and should be paid the rate of a similar employed worker. The requirement to pay a shadchan applies to anyone who makes a shidduch, not only a professional shadchan, but even a friend, a colleague, etc.


Firstly, Mazal Tov on the great news. May you both merit to build together a Bayis Ne’emon b’Yisroel.

In regard to your question, indeed according to certain principles of Shulchan Aruch one may be required to pay the shadchan even if his or her services were not requested and the parties did not enter into an greement beforehand and even if the shadchan is your friend. In practice, however, this usually isn't the case. 

Some substantiate their fee by pointing to the very fact that the Shadchan provided the parties with a tangible benefit, and they point to a similar Halacha in Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpot chapter 375. The comparison is however incorrect. The Shadchan merely presents the parties with an opportunity. In absence of a prior agreement, brokerage fees are only payable where the fee is unavoidable (as in Shulchan Admu"r Laws of Ribis paragraph 25). Cf. Minchas Asher part 2 Simon 119.

A more accurate basis for requiring payment is the obligation to pay a hired employee. To qualify for a particular payment for unsolicited services that do not intrinsically possess a financial benefit, 3 conditions must be met:

1. The Shadchan wasn't just making a suggestion but, like a broker, spent time and effort coaching and encouraging the parties until it worked.

2. There is a going rate for brokering a Shiduch, and no one (locally) does it free of charge. 

3. The rate is common knowledge.

Since many do it for the Mitzvah or for the thrill of being the successful person behind a Shiduch, in most cases a financial arrangement cannot be assumed and the astronomical fee your Shadchan is demanding probably isn't payable even if he spent time on the Shiduch. You can acceptably assume that the suggestion was being offered as a favor and because it's a Mitzva. This is especially true these days when official Shadchonim state their price in advance. This should indicate that where a fee was not stipulated by the casual "Shadchan", s/he may only be expecting a symbolic gift or "thank-you" for his or her efforts. Alas, the fact that some expect payment after the fact can be because they heard of this "halacha” and not the other way around. 

(ועי' ברמ"א ססי' פז - ובחידושי חת"ס שם. ססי' קפה. סי' רסד ס"ז - ובנתיבות שם. ועוד.)

This response is intended to provide a general overview of the subject matter.  Halachic advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

2. Question:

Can we host a Minyan at our home in an area that a Chabad House, run by a local shliach, already exists? At the moment there's no Minyan at the Chabad House and our home is the only option. The local shliach is not happy with what we're doing (he even tells people not to attend our Minyan!), but many of them have had negative experiences with him and wouldn’t Daven there anyway.


Generally speaking, one is permitted to form a new minyan or shul if there’s a legitimate motive and considerable attempts have already been made to resolve disagreements and personal differences. More specifically, however, there can sometimes be an issue of hasagas gvul (unacceptable competition) and only an impartial Rov (or Beis Din) presiding over the matter can give a definitive answer.

You could wait for the Shliach to invite you to a Din Torah, but a more praiseworthy and commendable approach would be to take the first step and suggest this avenue to the local Shliach. This would demonstrate a genuine desire to do what is right and a readiness to invest diligent effort to achieve true peace.

The content of this response is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

3. Question:

Is there any basis for the suggestion that up to an extra 1/6 of the price (16.67%) a Jew is required to overpay and buy specifically from a Jew to help him financially?


It is always recommended that one buy from a Jew if the Jew is prepared to sell at the same price available elsewhere. As with the Mitzva of Hashovas Aveido, one need not suffer a financial loss while supporting his or her fellow Jew. If however the difference is negligible and insignificant, or if the vendor really needs your support, it is a Mitzva to buy from the Jew and Hashem will pay you back. Cf. Tashbaz (3:151) Shar Mishpot (97:1), Darkei Tshuvo (159:7).

4. Question:

I have recently read some articles (here & here) concerning the validity of public Eiruvin. Many of my friends use the Crown Heights Eiruv. Does this mean that the Minhag follows the lenient approach?


There are two parts to this.

A. My understanding is that the published discussion you refer to is not about the validity of city Eiruvin. It's about the Rebbe's opinion on whether an Eiruv is advisable and beneficial under all or any circumstances and whether (all) Eiruvin should be made inconspicuously

The Rebbe’s general view is that city Eiruvin can be Halachicly dangerous, for although their formation could be advantageous in preventing Chilul Shabbos by the not-yet-observant, on the other hand, people who are somewhat observant will become accustomed to carrying outside and they might continue to carry even after discovering that the Eiruv has fallen. For certain places, the Rebbe complimented the Rabbonim for successfully arranging an Eiruv for their communities. The Rebbe's general advice was that the Rabbonim should decide for themselves whether a publicised Eiruv was a good idea.  (It appears that the Rebbe took the liberty to decide for Melbourne that a publicised Eiruv would be a terrible idea.) Some of this advice can be found here.

The current debate is also whether this allowance was also offered to Chabad Rabbonim for the Chabad members of their communities.

B. If Crown Heights had an Eiruv which was Kosher L’Mehadrin, there would be no halachic reason to refrain from carrying on Shabbos within its borders. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case*, and you should explain to your friends that the Rabbonim in the above articles were not discussing the current situation in Crown Heights. If they are still concerned, they should speak to their Rov.

As an aside, An Eiruv doesn't function in a Reshus HoRabim (Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 364:4), and the Alter Rebbe (ibid 345:11) and the Mishna Brura (ibid 23) concur that the Halacha follows the Rambam’s opinion that the halachic status of a Reshus HoRabim does not require the presence of 600,000 people. (The Alter Rebbe adds that although the common practice does not agree with the Rambam and one need not protest against those that are lenient, a God-fearing individual will follow the Rambam's opinion in this matter.) Also, the poles for an Eiruv (used for the Tzuras Hapesach) should be no more than 10 Amos apart (ibid 362:19). This is rarely achieved.

[*Update: Brooklyn now has an Eiruv (see the greater Brooklyn Eiruv map here) that is under the supervision of Harav Yaakov Zeide Dayan of the Vishnitz community of Williamsburg and under the endorsement of many prominent Rabbonim, most notably Harav Asher Eckstein, and Harav Gavriel Tzinner. Notably however, Rabbi Avrohom Osdoba and Rabbi Yosef Braun published their joint view regarding this Eiruv here, proclaiming it nonexistent and invalid.]

5. Question:

I just purchased a new home and the vendor is demanding payment for the Mezuzos that he will be leaving behind. It is my understanding that the previous owner has to leave his Mezuzahs, and therefore he cannot expect to be compensated for them. Am I obligated to pay him?


You don't have to pay for the Mezuzos. Unlike with a rental where the new resident (or landlord) is required to pay for the Mezuzos that the former resident leaves (and must leave) behind (see Ramo Yoreh Deah 291:2), a vendor is not entitled to such compensation unless the contract stipulated that the Mezuzos were not included in the purchase (Pischei T'shuva Yoreh Deah 291:8 and Choshen Mishpat 214:5).

6. Question:

Can a teacher confiscate a personal item from a student because he is playing with it in class? We were made to sign a contract in the beginning of the school year that we would not bring such items to class. We might have been told that if we did it would be confiscated. My teacher noticed me playing with such an item and removed it from my possession. He told me that at the end of the year he will decide whether to return it to me. After leaving school, I informed my father of this exchange and he asked my teacher to return it to me. The teacher refused and referred my father to the principal. The principal explained that there was a breach in the contract between the school and me, and that the consequences for such a “breach have been communicated to him and acceptance of those consequences is assumed.” The principal later added that he received advice from three respected Rabbonim (he did not disclose their identity) who all confirmed that the school had the right to do this since an agreement was in place.


To take an object from someone else without his or her consent constitutes Gezel, even if one does so with the intention of returning it. A teacher can temporarily confiscate an item from his student if it poses a danger or if it interferes with their learning. Even so, when the child leaves the premises, the item must be returned. Withholding the item is Oishek. In his Responsa Bnei Bonim 2:47, Rabbi Yehuda Henkin writes that school policy does not mitigate the prohibition because conditions against Torah aren’t valid.

The halacha remains valid even if the students signed a contract not to bring such items to class and even if the consequences (i.e. that the school can confiscate it and decide when to return it) were clearly included in the contract (i.e. not merely “communicated” and “assumed” as in your case). An agreement to be subject to punitive measures is only binding if these are clearly stipulated in a written contract, only if the student has validated the agreement by making an effective Kinyan Agav Sudar (a formal halachic method of giving legal efficacy and validity to an agreement) and only if the contract states that this was accepted Mei'achshav ("from now") in an esteemed Beis Din. Otherwise, the stipulation is an Asmachto (cf. Shulchan HaRav Laws of Ribis paragraph 46. Laws of Contracts paragraph 12).

[Rabbi Yehuda Blau in his Pischei Choshen (4:1:17) writes that a teacher may take away disturbances from young children (note: it is unclear whether he allows a teacher to take these from a student who is already Bar or Bas Mitzva). He bases his view on the wording of the Rambam which indicates that to take something from someone without his permission but with the intention of returning it soon afterwards is merely rabbinic in nature and therefore, for the child’s benefit, he may do so. Further, one could assume that the child’s parents would expect him to do so. Accordingly, he could be seen as acting as their agent to remove from their child's possession an item belonging to the parents (note: this wouldn't apply in the scenario in question since as you say, your father requested the immediate return of the item). However, Shulchan Aruch HaRav understands the opinion of the Rambam differently and rules that the prohibition remains biblical (see Kuntres Achron there for a proof regarding this). Even if we would regard this matter as an even Machloikes, we would have to adopt the stricter view (cf. Avoda Zoro 7a, based on the principal of Sofek d'Oiraiso Lechumro (Betza 3b)). And by the way, the obligation to adopt the stricter approach is in itself biblical in nature (Responsa Tzemach Tzedek Y”D 71. E”H 295:4).]

Accordingly, if a teacher punishes a student by taking something from him, it could be considered theft, even if he intends to return it. If the teacher refuses to return it to the student before he leaves the premises, the teacher could be transgressing the prohibition of Oishek.

You should respectfully ask your principal to disclose the identity of the three scholarly Rabbonim who advised him that he could retain the item "as long as he wished". Alleging that Rabbonim allowed this isn't sufficient. He must also provide names or sources so that these can be verified and challenged. Alternatively, you could show this response to your principal and ask him, respectfully, to pass it on to his Rabbonim. An honest and unprejudiced Rov with a strong psychological constitution will not be offended by this information and will readily acknowledge his error.