May 16, 2024
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May 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.

This week we learned Zevachim 31. These are some highlights.

Zevachim 31: Does a broker deserve a broker’s fee for selling you a home you once owned?

Shut Avnei Chefetz (Siman 27) deals with a question about a broker’s fee. A broker is usually paid a percentage of the purchase. It has become the common practice to give a broker a lot of money for finding the property for the buyer. The broker has to look for the property, examine the property, teach about the property to the buyer and help the buyer close the deal. For all these efforts he is compensated generously. A man inherited a lot of wealth and he wanted to buy a new apartment. He asked a broker to please look around and find for him an apartment with three bedrooms. The broker came back with an apartment for sale that met all the criteria of the buyer. When the broker described the apartment, the buyer said, “I know that apartment very well. I used to live there. In fact, I used to own that apartment. I was very comfortable in it. When I needed money I had to sell it. I do not need your help to tell me about this apartment. I already know it well. I will buy the apartment, but I will not give you as pay a percentage of the purchase price. I do not need much work from you for the apartment. I will pay you for your time. I will give you a small amount of money. I won’t give you a broker’s fee.” The broker complained to the Avnei Chefetz. Who is right? Is the broker entitled to the percentage of the price when the buyer is getting back an apartment he once owned? A similar question exists in regard to a shadchan, a marriage broker. A man was engaged to a woman and he broke up the engagement. He went to a shadchan to ask for a shidduch. The shadchan suggested the girl he had been engaged to. He rekindled the relationship and they got married. Do they owe the shadchan the typical fee?

Shut Avnei Chefetz suggests that our Gemara might shed light on these questions.

He feels that determining what fee is in order is dependent on correctly defining the meaning of a person rebuying what was once his. Do we say that when a person owns an item and then sells it he has lost his connection to the item fully? If he has lost his connection fully once he sells, then when he repurchases he is no different than any other buyer who purchases an item. He should then give the broker the percentage of the purchase price that is normally given. But there is another possibility. Maybe when one owns an item and sells it there is still a residual connection to the item. When the original owner repurchases the item, his residual connection is rising up. What was latent becomes actual again. Maybe he is not like a new owner. He is the original owner returning to what was originally his. If we understand his repurchase to be an awakening of a latent bond, then the broker would not be entitled to the normal broker fee of a percentage of the purchase. The broker should get paid something, but a limited payment would be sufficient. Our Gemara teaches us that an original state gets reawakened.

Our Gemara is discussing the concept of a contaminated sacrifice, pigul. If during one of the key acts of service there was intent to consume the sacrifice at the wrong time, the sacrifice becomes pigul—anyone who would eat from it deserves kareit. If there was an intent to eat from the sacrifice in the wrong place, the sacrifice is merely disqualified, it is not pigul. One who eats from it would not deserve kareit. The Mishnah taught that intent about an olive-size piece of meat can create pigul. If during the service the kohen declared, “I intend to eat an olive-size worth of the meat of this sacrifice at the wrong time,” the sacrifice would become pigul. Our Gemara wonders about a kohen who during the service said, “I intend to eat half an olive-size worth of meat at the wrong time, another half an olive-size worth in the wrong place, and another half an olive-size worth at the wrong time.” What is the status of the sacrifice? Do we say that the declared intent of half an olive-size worth at the wrong time was neutered fully by the intent of half an olive-size worth at the wrong place and the korban is pasul but not pigul? Or perhaps we say that the original intent of half an olive-size worth at the wrong time was merely put to sleep by the intent of half an olive-size worth at the wrong place, and once there was another intent for another half an olive-size worth at the wrong time the original intent for half an olive-size worth at the wrong time was reawakened? Then the sacrifice would be pigul. Rava proves from the laws of food transmitting impurity that the original intent of half an olive-size at the wrong place was merely put to sleep by the intent of half an olive at the wrong place, and the thought about the third half of an olive-size amount of meat reawakens the original intent and the sacrifice becomes pigul. We see from our Gemara that an original status gets reawakened when people return to it. Therefore, from our Gemara we should rule that in our case of the broker, the broker would not be entitled to a typical broker’s fee.

Ultimately, Avnei Chefetz limits his ruling.

His ruling makes sense if a person sold the apartment and within the year is repurchasing his apartment. If his repurchase is within the year, his connection to the apartment had not been fully lost prior to the repurchase and we cannot treat the broker as a broker would normally be treated. But, if more than a year elapsed from when he first sold the apartment, the buyer is like everyone else. His connection to the apartment was fully lost once a year passed. If after a year or more a broker reintroduced him to his old apartment, the broker would deserve to receive the typical broker’s fee of a percentage of the sale (Chashukei Chemed).

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

 Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.

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