| Tempo: Second Guessing |

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“When it comes to competition, the halachah is pro-consumer and leans toward open-market competition”

Last Week:

Tamar Bechoffer calls to tell me she signed up with Nava — side note, she had totally told me she wanted to sign up with me, but whatever — and Nava told her I’d be a reference, that she’d worked for me and had my full support.


That’s the only word that comes to mind.

And that’s why I say, “I’m so sorry, I really don’t know her very well, she’s my best friend’s cousin,” curtly and then hang up.

I feel like a failure on all accounts, and I go to sleep in a bad mood, wondering what it would have taken for me to have said something nicer about Nava.

And all I could think was… What should I have done differently?



Leah was upset when, after mentoring and advising newlywed Nava, who wanted to open a playgroup like hers, Nava expanded her hours and group size, and “stole” some of Leah’s kids.

Although Leah’s feelings of betrayal and resentment are understandable, they don’t justify her negative response to the person who called her as a reference. First of all, what her husband said to her earlier is 100 percent true. No one can ever take away someone else’s parnassah, and thinking otherwise demonstrates a lack of emunah. Additionally, Leah never did or said anything to Nava that might have given the impression that she was feeling resentful — in fact, she did just the opposite by going out of her way to welcome Nava and help her graciously. Nava didn’t do anything wrong, and she naively thinks that Leah fully supports her. For Leah to then go ahead and give half-hearted responses to potential clients is simply wrong.

K.F, Boro Park


Asking Too Much

I think Leah is justified in being upset that Nava didn’t discuss the major changes she was making to the playgroup  — ten kids instead of six, and ending at four instead of three. She had to have known that taking ten kids would probably take away some kids from Leah, and a perk like an extra hour of childcare is an obvious draw.

Nava also traded on Leah’s good name to get more kids.

Should Leah have risen above it all and taken the high road, giving a glowing reference about how capable and warm Nava is and how her playgroup would be great? Yes, in an ideal world. But to expect that after Nava did this to her? I think that’s asking a bit too much too soon.

T.H, Los Angeles


Out of Line

Nava was out of line.

Leah had seniority, Leah reached out and took care of her, sharing her knowledge and expertise and Nava, floating in her shanah rishonah bubble, didn’t take time to think about the ramifications of “just going till four” or “just taking ten kids.”

Yes, if Leah had time to gather her wits and thoughts, she probably could have responded better, but I don’t think she can be blamed for not rising to the occasion.

B.T., Monsey


Uncomfortable but Necessary

I think Leah should take a deep breath and center herself. She's taking what is likely a technical issue — Nava accepting kids until 4 p.m. rather than 3 p.m. — personally, as if it's a sign people aren't happy with her.

Nava really should have told Leah her plans. If she had, it seems Leah would have happily agreed. Like this, Leah was caught off guard.

Leah did the right thing by ending her call with Nava when she was upset. But immediately after that, she needed to think about what to do, and communicate with Leah.

This is where many people often get stuck. We avoid confrontation because it’s so uncomfortable, but then we get into problems because we haven't dealt with the issue. Rather than pout and sulk , Leah needed to decide if there was anything she could ask Nava for. She’d initially agreed to let Nava take six kids—did she want to ask Nava to cancel on the extra kids? Or perhaps she wanted to request that Nava not take any more kids? Or maybe just let Nava know that she felt betrayed?

Nava might not have acquiesced to Leah’s requests — but she’ll never know if she doesn't ask.

If Leah would have done the uncomfortable but necessary work of making peace with Nava, she most likely would have been able to give an honest recommendation to the woman who called her. (And if this caller finds out that Nava worked with Leah for months, which she most likely will, Leah's evasive answer makes her sound foolish.)

Penina Steinbruch


A Halachic Question?

When it comes to competition, the halachah is pro-consumer and leans toward open-market competition. This may be tough on the providers but the consumer gains, both in terms of price and quality of goods. The basic halachah is that that anyone living in the same city may compete with someone else in that same city, provided that he is not putting the latter out of business. If he lives in a different city, however, he may not compete, unless the product he is providing is substantially different from the one provided by the local person. So even though Leah was upset when Nava opened up a new playgroup, there is no halachic objection to the new babysitting service because both were locals. In fact, one could argue that even if Nava would come from a different city, there would be no objection because each babysitter has a different personality and is substantially different from the other.

Interesting note: A primary source about this topic is a responsa of Rema (Rav Moses Isserles, 1530–1572), which was prompted by the following incident. The Venetian Republic forbade Jews from printing books, so the publishing houses, even of seforim, were owned by non-Jews. Rabbi Meir ben Isaac Katzenellenbogen, the Maharam Padua, edited a new edition of Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, investing much time and effort, and published it with a certain non-Jewish publisher, Alvis Bragadin. His competitor, Marco Antonio Justinian, however, was furious and published his own, much cheaper edition of Mishneh Torah, essentially bankrupting the former.

In response, Rema banned Justinian’s edition, and wrote a long responsa dealing with the laws of competition. Tragically, Justinian reacted by hiring an apostate Jew to find “objectionable” statements in the Maharam’s commentary, which eventually lead to a mass burning of the Talmud and other seforim.

I once discovered in an old box of seforim a Pirush Recanati that was published in 1530, and on the last page, it paid homage to the benefactor, Marco Antonio Justinian. I never knew who that was until I saw the responsa of Rema.

Rav Avrohom Neuberger


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 875)

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