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"Jack, you are a great carpenter."
"Why thank you Mr. Shore."
"I have a job for you, if you are interested. Here is some wood that I bought. I would like you to make a chair out of this wood."
"No problem, Mr. Shore. Come back in a few days and it will be ready."
Mr. Shore returns a few days later.
"Hi Jack! How are you?"
"Fine, Mr. Shore. Your bench is ready. It's right over there."
"Bench? What bench?"
"The bench that you asked me to make from the wood."
"I didn't ask for a bench, Jack. I asked you to make me a chair."
"I'm so sorry Mr. Shore."
The question is:
Who keeps the bench, Jack or Mr. Shore?
If Jack keeps it, does he pay for it? If so, how much?
If Mr. Shore keeps it, does he pay for it? If so, how much?
The answer is:
This is actually a dispute between the Tannaim Rebbe Meir and Rebbe Yehuda in the Gemora (Bava Kamma 101a).
The Tanna Rebbe Meir does not penalize Jack for his mistake. If Mr. Shore wants the bench, he must pay Jack his full wage for it. If he does not want the bench, Jack must only pay Mr. Shore the cost of the wood. Jack can then sell the bench for a profit.
The Tanna Rebbe Yehuda penalizes Jack for his mistake. He is not allowed to keep the bench. Mr. Shore must buy it from him at the lowest possible price: either the expenses of making it or the market value of the bench, whichever is lower. (Rashi adds that he can pay Jack's wage if that is the lowest amount.)
The Mechaber in Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 306:3 rules like Rebbe Yehuda.
"Hi Imma, I'm home from school."
"Hello, Avi. How do you feel? You must be hungry. Here is an apple for you. Lunch will be ready in a few minutes."
"Thank you Imma. This apple sure is yummy. Imma, can you help me with my homework assignment?"
"I'll try, Avi dear."
"We have to draw a family tree, and speak about some of the accomplishments of our ancestors."
"That is a big job, Avi. Let me think for a minute where we should begin. In the meantime, here is your lunch. Start with this bowl of hot soup."
"Imma, you're a great cook."
"Avi, my grandfather came to the United States when he was a young child. He was born in a shtetl in Eastern Europe. His family had lived there for many generations. His grandfather was the Rav of the shtetl."
"Really, Imma? We have an ancestor who was a Rav in Eastern Europe?"
"That's right Avi. He was a big Talmid Chochom. He learned through the entire Talmud fifty times. He also knew the Shulchan Aruch. He was able to poskin (make halachic decisions) in all areas of Jewish law."
"That's really something, Imma. I never knew about him."
"He was a well respected man, Avi."
"I really feel different about myself and our family, now that I know that we had such a special great-great-grandfather."
"If you trace our family tree back farther, you will find even greater people, Avi."
"Please tell me about them Imma. I am so interested."
"Let's begin at the beginning. Avraham Avinu was the first Jew. He had a son named Yitzchak, who had a son named Yaakov. Yaakov had twelve sons, who became the heads of the tribes of Israel. Yosef, his second youngest son was sold as a slave and taken down to Mitzraim. There he was thrown into prison on false charges. However, Hashem was with him the entire time, and he was miraculously freed from prison to become the second in command to Paroh, the King of Egypt."
"That is truly amazing."
"It certainly is, Avi, but Paroh and his other officers were not completely happy with it. They recognized Yosef's great skills, and Heavenly blessings. However, it was still a disgrace to Egypt, the world's leading nation, to have a leader who was once a lowly slave."
"We know how important royal blood is."
"Right, Avi. The verse in this week's parasha explains how pleased they were when Yosef revealed his identity to his brothers. 'And the word spread into the house of Paroh that Yosef's brothers had arrived. And the matter was good in the eyes of Paroh and in the eyes of his servants.' (Bereshis 45:16)."
"What was so good about the news, Imma?"
"The Ramban explains that Paroh and his servants now saw that Yosef came from a highly respected family. They saw that a man of his lineage was truly fit to sit in the royal court. Therefore they were happy."
"Please tell me more, Imma."
"The famine was supposed to last for seven years. When Yaakov came to Egypt, the famine stopped. This was not the first time that prosperity followed him. Lavan became a wealthy man during his stay in his household. Yaakov Avinu was man whose righteousness was world renowned and respected."
"He was our ancestor."
"That's right, Avi. We are all descended from him. We have royal blood in our veins."
"Imma, that makes me feel very good."
Kinderlach . . .
In our day and age, many people are searching for their identity. The Jewish people have never had such an "identity crisis." We know exactly who we are. We are the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. Our ancestors include the world's greatest people - Moshe Rabbeinu, Miriam, Pinchas, Yehoshua, Shmuel HaNovi, Dovid HaMelech, Yirmiyahu, Rebbe Akiva, Rachel, Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai, the Rambam, Rashi, Rav Yosef Karo, The Arizal. The list can go on and on. We would need a lot of paper to draw our family tree. We would need even more paper to write about all of their accomplishments. B'ezrat Hashem, our deeds should measure up to their standards.
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