Shabbat Shoftim 5776
Is there such thing as unfair competition in Jewish thought? I remember a dispute when a new kosher pizza place opened on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in my student days,, much to the aggravation of the owner of an existing pizza place a few blocks away. I think the local rabbinic authorities, the Bet Din, got involved.
There’s a long history of legal precedent on matters of economic competition, and the roots of this issue are in this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim. The Torah teaches: “You shall not move your countryman’s landmarks, set up by previous generations, in the property that will be allotted to you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess” (Deuteronomy 19:14). the language of the verse gave rise to the Hebrew term hasagat gevul, perhaps best translated as “encroachment.” This principle would be applied to limit competition, but not eliminate it altogether.
It’s interesting that while the Torah presents a rather clear prohibition, most forms of competition are actually permitted. There’s a moral dimension to the principle of hasagat gevul that will help determine when competition is allowed and when it’s curbed. On Shabbat morning, we’ll explore two modern examples of hasagat gevul that have religious dimensions. One is economic, and the other is cultural. In fact, you may have seen pictures of the latter example this week!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise