Preferential Trading

Question

Yehoshua needs to have some electrical
work done in his apartment. One of his neighbours happens to be an
electrician. Does he have to give his neighbour preference when choosing
an electrician? Another neighbour owns a grocery store, which is situated
ten minute’s walk away from his home. Would it be correct for him to shop
in his neighbour’s store even though there is another grocery store closer
by?


Answer

If a person has the option of selling his field to a
neighbour or to a relative, whom should he prefer? In Tractate Bovo
Metzia
(108b), the answer is derived from a verse in Chapter 27 of Mishle,
"A close neighbour is better than a distant brother."
Accordingly, the Shulchan Oruch (Choshen Mishpot 155:50)
rules that if two potential buyers offer the same price for a piece of
land (or a house), if one is a relative and the other is a non-bordering
neighbour, one should give preference to the neighbour. However, if the
seller did sell to his relative, the neighbour has no right to overturn
the sale. Had he been a bordering neighbour, he would have been able to
forcibly take the field away from the purchaser and refund the money that
he had paid for it (dinna d’bar metzra). Thus, we see that it is
considered correct to give a neighbour preference when making a sale, even
though no objection rights are conferred on the neighbour. Does this rule
also apply when buying from a neighbour or employing him to perform work
for you? Rashi (ad loco) informs us that the source for giving
preference is the verse in Devorim (6:18), "And you shall do
what is right and good in the eyes of Hashem." Surely this
principle would also extend to giving preference to buying from neighbours
and employing them? In addition, our Sages (Tractate Yevomos 62b)
inform us that Hashem accepts the prayers of those who show love
for neighbours.

Who is called a neighbour for these purposes? The Remo
(Ibid.) quotes two opinions. Tosafos and the Rosh hold that
mere physical proximity of their places of residence does not create an
obligation to give preference. Only when there is also a close
relationship between them does this apply. The Remo adds that there
is a dissenting opinion, that physical proximity of abode is adequate.
Although the Shach (Note 48) comments that he knows no source for
such a dissenting opinion, the Vilna Gaon (Bi’ur HaGro No. 121)
cites the gemoro (Ibid.) which discusses whether town neighbours or
country neighbours are preferable as the source for this opinion. Location
seems to be the only criterion for determining neighbour status.

The Shulchan Oruch mentioned that preference is given to a
neighbour only if he offers the same price as the other candidate.
Similarly, one would only have to give a neighbour preference if the goods
or the work that he was offering were of the same quality as his
competitor. Only if all other aspects are equal is preference given to the
neighbour. What does Yehoshua do if he has several neighbours who are
electricians? Should he give preference to one who lives on the same floor
over one who lives on a different floor? Rav Moshe Feinstein quotes the Yalkut
Shimoni
(Bo, No. 192), where Rebi Yishmoel states
that a neighbour who lives next to you has preference over one who lives
above you when choosing whom to join for bringing the Pesach offering. One
has to choose one’s neighbours carefully, since those who are closest to
you have the most influence over you. Keep good company! Similarly, says
Rav Yitzchok Silberstein (Tuvcha Yabiu, No.21), your next door
neighbour should be given priority, providing that price and quality are
equal to other candidates. Yehoshua, try to give preference to your
neighbours.