The Case – The Saga of a Destination Wedding

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Jerry, the father of the bride, chose to celebrate his daughter’s wedding overseas. He invited the family members of the bride and groom, and many of their close friends. Since the extended family members included numerous observant Jews with high kashrut standards, Jerry meticulously chose a well-accepted caterer under the auspices of a reputable kashrut organization. Sometime at the end of the trip, the caterer’s manager boasted to one of the guests of the rare cuts of meat served on the wedding night. Upon further inquiry, it became apparent that the caterer served cuts of meat taken from the hind of the animal. Consequently, many of Jerry’s guests phoned their local rabbi who informed them that it was forbidden to eat such meat. The rabbi explained to them that the method of koshering hind meat properly is largely unknown, and thus the meat’s kosher status was questionable. The rabbi added, that although the meat had kosher certification, it was clearly against their custom to consume it. The uproar of complaints, and the ill feelings of the guests towards Jerry, heavily dampened the end of the trip. Jerry, who prepaid the caterer, demanded a refund from him for what had transpired. Firstly, the meat’s kosher status was questionable and is thus not customarily served. Furthermore, Jerry complained that the caterer violated his advertised kosher certification by bringing meat of a different kosher certification. Jerry was also seeking compensation for his aggravation after violating the trust of his family by serving them meat that was inappropriate.  

Is Jerry entitled to a refund from the caterer? How should the Bet Din rule and why? 

 

Torah Law 

According to the ruling of the Shulhan Aruch, one who sells unkosher food to another Jew is required to refund the buyer in full. Regardless of whether the food was restricted for consumption by Torah law, rabbinic law, or even by custom, the buyer is entitled to a complete refund. This above ruling is limited to instances in which the buyer did not yet consume the unkosher food purchased. Since the buyer in all instances is restricted from eating the food, he is clearly entitled to a refund upon discovering the food’s unkosher status. 

Nevertheless, the law differs in the event the buyer already consumed the unkosher food. In such an instance, if the food was prohibited for consumption by Torah law, the seller is required to provide a full refund. If, however, the prohibition was of rabbinic nature, after it is eaten, the seller need not refund the money collected. 

The rationale for the above distinction is that our sages imposed a penalty on the seller of food that is unkosher by Torah prohibition. This penalty requires the seller to provide a refund even if the food was  eaten and served as nourishment. On the other hand, in a rabbinic prohibition, our sages did not include the penalty of refund once the food was eaten and served as nourishment.  

A further explanation is provided for the above halachic distinction. Since one who eats unkosher food that is forbidden by Torah prohibition is terribly pained by his mistake, the anguish outweighs the nourishment he received. In the case of rabbinic prohibition, the remorse after unintentional consumption is not nearly as severe, and the nourishment is viewed as a benefit offsetting the need for a refund. Furthermore, numerous halachic authorities rule that one who unintentionally eats food of rabbinic restriction is not required to atone for his mistake. While other views argue, all agree that a refund is not required.  

The hind meat of an animal is customarily not available at butcher shops in North America and most other locations around the globe. This is due to the complicated process of its koshering, and the lack of experienced men that are qualified to perform such a procedure. It is clearly not the intent of this ruling to change such a practice, which protects the public from possibly consuming unkosher meat. However, in the event hind meat is consumed after its meticulous koshering by a well-known reliable overseas rabbinical source, there is no basis to claim a refund. Our custom to refrain from its consumption is at best due to a rabbinic prohibition, and more likely the prohibition only stems from our inability to perform the required koshering procedure. 

Verdict: Case Dismissed 

Our Bet Din rejected Jerry’s claim for a refund of the cost of catering for the night of his daughter’s wedding. As mentioned in Torah law, once the food is consumed, one is not entitled to a refund unless he accidentally ate food restricted under Torah law. Hind meat is customarily not available in North America and in most locations around the globe. This is due to the complicated process of its koshering and the lack of experienced men that are qualified to perform such a procedure. It is clearly not the intention of this ruling to change such a practice that protects the public from possibly eating unkosher meat. Nevertheless, since the caterer imported meat from a meticulous, well-known reliable overseas rabbinical source, there is no basis to claim a refund. Our custom to refrain from its consumption is most likely due to our inability and lack of knowledge in the koshering procedure.  

Although the kashrut organization servicing the caterer failed to detect and prevent the serving of the meat, Jerry had paid a flat rate directly to the caterer and was unaffiliated with the servicing kashrut organization. Additionally, the caterer’s price did not detail a paid additional cost for its specific kashrut certification. Notwithstanding, our Bet Din instructed Jerry to report the caterer to the main branch of the kashrut headquarters, in order to prevent him from repeating such activity.    

In Loving Memory of Vera Bat Carol, A”H

YOU BE THE JUDGE 

 

Rent Reduction? 

Sally and Jonathan rented a five-bedroom home from David to satisfy the needs of their growing family. After the first two years of rental, immediately after signing a contract for a third year, a water leak developed in one of the bedrooms. The dripping leak partially extended to a second bedroom and after only a short while the entire upstairs reeked of mildew. Without delay, David instructed the couple to provide entry to workers to correct the problem. However, due to complications that included locating the multiple sources of the problem, along with the need for outdoor repairs during the height of the winter, it became evident that the process would be difficult and lengthy. Sally and Jonathan informed David that they were reducing the amount of their monthly payments from the time the leaks began until the problem is corrected. In Bet Din, David refused to lower the rent and countered that if the couple wishes, they can move out of his home and he will reimburse them with all the rent paid since the beginning of the episode. If, however, they choose to stay, David expected to be paid the price of the rent in full, as stipulated in their contract. David, by his own initiative, forwarded a check to our Bet Din, paid to the order of the couple, covering the full cost of rent with an additional amount for the time period required for the couple to move. Sally and Jonathan rejected David’s offer, claiming that they were unwilling to move and they reiterated their right to a rent reduction. 

Is David required to reduce their rent? 

How should the Bet Din rule and why?