Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Theft by Another Name

Our sages recount that a certain thief wished to do teshvuah but was discouraged when his wife said to him, “Empty one! If you repent, even the avneit, the fancy belt around your waist, will no longer be your own!”
The Brisker Rav, zt”l, commented on this, “We see from here that even a respectable person who wears an avneit may still be a thief!”
Of course most people do not steal in its more prosaic sense. Yet the Chazon Ish, zt”l, pointed out an area where even honest people are often “moreh heter” and withhold money belonging to another, G-d forbid. In the Chazon Ish’s words, “The most prevalent form of theft today is failure to pay shadchanus. A shadchan has the halachic status of a laborer, and one is obligated according to Torah law to pay him for his services the customary fee in one’s area.”
On many occasions the Chazon Ish refered to shadchanus as “kosher gelt”—well-deserved earnings.
A certain person approached the Chazon Ish with a very painful problem. Although several years had elapsed from the wedding, he and his wife still had no children.
“Did you pay the shadchan?” asked the Chazon Ish.
“It is virtually certain that he is halachically not entitled to a penny in our particular case.”
The Chazon Ish pushed this claim aside. “Even so, go and pay the customary fee.”
The very next year the couple had their first child!

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