Seasons Supermarket Bankruptcy, VeZos HaBracha, and the Chofetz Chaim

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(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com)

Season’s Supermarket. Chapter Eleven bankruptcy. Rashi on Moshe Rabbeinu’s bracha regarding Shaivet Levi.

What do they have to do with each other?

The pasuk tells us, וּלְלֵוִ֣י אָמַ֔ר תֻּמֶּ֥יךָ וְאוּרֶ֖יךָ לְאִ֣ישׁ חֲסִידֶ֑ךָ אֲשֶׁ֤ר נִסִּיתוֹ֙ בְּמַסָּ֔ה תְּרִיבֵ֖הוּ עַל־מֵ֥י מְרִיבָֽה – “And of Levi he said: Your Thummim and Your Urim be with Your holy one, whom You did prove at Massah…at the waters of Meribah.”

Rashi explains that the tribe of Levi did not complain with the other murmurers.

We see here a remarkable insight.  Neither did Shaivet Levi complain nor did they join with other murmurers.  There appears to be a special yetzer hara to join in with others in murmuring and complaining.

Shaivet Levi didn’t do that.  They remained davuk bashem.  Many meforshim explain that it was because of this quality that they earned the Urim v’Tumim and the title of ish chasidecha.

We are now right after the elevation and purification of the aseres yemei teshuvah.  We are about to enter into Hashem’s inner sanctum according to the Nesivos Shalom. “HeviAni HaMelech Chadarav – The King has brought me into His inner room (Shir HaShirim 1:4).”  The Sukkah’s holiness is a revelation of Hashem’s intense love for His people – a love comparable to the love demonstrated when He was with us in the Bais HaMikdash itself.

In regard to Seasons, let’s try to be the Shaivet Levi here.

Seasons did run into some difficulties.  They did file for bankruptcy.  But, Boruch Hashem, they were able to secure what is called DIP financing.  They have restocked their shelves and by Wednesday they should be fully restocked.  Both Chrysler and General Motors obtained this type of financing and they have emerged as healthy entities.

LET’S SHOP FROM THERE

Let’s make our best effort to support them and to shop there. We should do this for a number of reasons:

  • There are many frum employees that work for Seasons.
  • There are numerous frum vendors, investors, and creditors who will avoid serious losses if Seasons becomes successful again.
  • The owners and investors are community minded people who give heart and soul to Klal Yisroel’s needs. They do so without fanfare.

There is a fourth reason too.  Rashi (Vayikra 25:14) cites a Sifra (Parashas Behar, 3): “From where do we know that when one makes a purchase, he should purchase from his fellow? The pasuk therefore tells us “v’chi sikneh m’yad amisecha or when you purchase, from the hand of your fellow.”

What might be the reasons for this mitzvah? A cursory examination will reveal three fundamental issues: (1) It is an expression of the mitzvah of Ve’ahavta lerei‘acha kamocha, loving thy neighbor as thyself; (2) It supports our mosdos and economy; and (3) it creates a stronger bond among Klal Yisroel.

This mitzvah of ki sikneh miyad amisecha is cited by numerous halachic authorities: the Sefer HaChinuch (end of mitzvah #337), the Chofetz Chaim in Ahavas Chesed (5:7), the Rama in his Responsa (#10), and the Chasam Sopher (C.M. V #79), among many other authorities (Tashbatz Vol. III #151; Maharam Shick C.M. #31; Minchas Yitzchok III #129).

LOGISTICAL DIFFICULTIES

What happens if, from a logistical perspective, we encounter difficulties? The mitzvah applies even if it is more difficult to make the purchase at an establishment owned by one’s fellow than at one owned by other vendors (Maharam Shick, C.M. #31). Thus, distance, a lack of adequate parking, and just general inconvenience – are not factors that exempt one from the mitzvah.

WHAT ABOUT PRICE?

Most authorities (Rama, Tashbatz, Chofetz Chaim) rule that the obligation to purchase miyad amisecha exists even if his price for the item is higher than that of the other vendor. There is a distinction, however, when there is a significant difference in the price.

When the price of the other vendors is significantly less, some authorities rule that there is no obligation to purchase miyad amisecha. Other authorities rule that even in such a case one must still do so (Minchas Yitzchok’s reading of the Rama).

HAVING DIFFICULTY

Certainly if the fellow citizen is having difficulty making ends meet, all would agree that one must purchase from him even if there is a significant difference in price (Ahavas Chesed 6:10).

The Ahavas Chessed was written by no less an authority than the Chofetz Chaim. There is no question that Seasons would fit into the Chofetz Chaim’s criterion here. This is not to take away from any of the other excellent stores that service our community.  But if we can redirect our shopping away from some of the bigger national superstore chains that will go along way.   May we all share in the Yom tov of zman simchasainu where those that are struggling will also see yeshuos venechamos too!

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com  If you would like to subscribe to daily articles by Rabbi Yair Hoffman please send an email with the word “subscribe” in the subject line to yairhoffman2@gmail.com.

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)




14 COMMENTS

  1. Really sad – Seasons is a nice store that tries to service the community. Boruch Hashem There is a need for many stores, and we benefit to have them they have great food.

  2. Please explain why it’s more important to shop there versus any other local frum grocery. THE AUTHOR RESPONDS: The principle of miyad amisecha applies to all frum groceries. The intent here is not that business should be taken away from the other exceptional stores who are baalei tzedaka and do enormous things for the community. There are three things that I am suggesting should happen. #1 – We should, if we can, curtail our shopping at the bigger chain national superstores that are not yad amisecha and try to transfer it here because of the emergency issues and the implication of the Ahavas Chessed here (lechulei almah quote); #2 – The past customers should return; #3 – If we can, let’s try and throw them some business in light of the employees, vendors and others that would need it. We all go out and spend things on outings – How about one day making a Save Seasons dinner at home where we buy and grill steaks instead?

    Thank you for requesting the clarification. Yair Hoffman

  3. TIMES:U.S. taxpayers lost more than $11.2 billion as a result of the federal bailout of General Motors, according to a government report released Wednesday.

    The $11.2-billion loss includes a $826-million write-off in March from government investments in the “Old GM” before the company’s 2009 bankruptcy, the report said. The U.S. government spent $49.5 billion to bail out GM, and after the company’s bankruptcy in 2009, the government’s investment was converted to a 61 percent equity stake in the company. The Treasury gradually sold off its stock in GM, selling its last shares in December 2013.

    The Center for Automative Research said last year that the taxpayer bailout of GM saved 1.2 million jobs and avoided the loss of $129.2 billion in personal income in 2009 and 2010. Of the $78.2 billion the U.S. Treasury spent bailing out the auto industry through its Troubled Asset Relief Program, $58.0 billion was repaid, according to the report.

  4. I feel strongly about the authors point. It’s hard to stand idly by and watch a Jewish, haimishe business lose its battle. But, with all due respect, it was hard to see how Seasons seemed to have little or no care when they squeezed others out. In our neighborhood in Queens, their flagship store, they seemed to have little care when they nearly pushed, then, fledgling, Aron’s out. They opened up this huge store way too close for both to succeed. It’s hard to have real rachmanus on them now.

  5. Thank you Rabbi Hoffman for your article. Does this requirement that you have suggested apply if the merchant seems to pursue a non competitive strategy? I am not familiar with other locations but living in Lakewood has made me familiar with the location there and they are significantly more expensive than the competition. Are we m’chuyav to shop at a store that resists being competitive?

  6. There are many frum employees and investors associated with their competitors. Why should a firm that provides a less desirable combination of products, prices and convenience prosper at the expense of an equally frum firm that does a better job. At least in the case of Baltimore, they failed because another frum store offered better products at lower prices with more convenient access. Capitalism prospers because it rewards the smart vendor over one that is “chosen” by the powers that be (e.g. GM and Chrysler have not prospered after being bailed out for political reasons). In most places there are multiple frum stores, and “picking” the winner based on political factors if folly. Better to prefer a policy of let the “best frum store” win, and accept that the one that the frum community rejects will lose.

  7. The real article should be about a store that took millions of dollars of product from small vendors, didn’t pay them, sold the product, gave the ill-gotten profits to tzedoko, and now instead of calling it geneiva it’s called bankruptcy!
    The real article should be if the mosdos who received donations with stolen money have a chiyuv to return the stolen funds.

  8. I knew before clicking this would be an article making excuses for Seasons.

    They played the consumer capitalist game, and they died by their own sword. They sell sub-par quality meat, overcharge, and hire mostly Spanish-speaking workers.

    It’s not like we’re buying treif instead of going to Seasons. We’re supporting OTHER FRUM grocery stores instead because they have better practices than Seasons. Why should we turn our backs on the superior quality and price frum stores just because Seasons made their bed and don’t want to lie in it?
    And, I wouldn’t have recommended using the GM/Chrysler mushul to defend a place. Those were bailed out with almost universally hated taxpayer bailouts.

  9. I agree with 9:39
    Seasons has always been way overpriced, especially in locations like queens (main street) where the clientele generally looks for cheaper options. Out of the few times I’ve been there, each time i walked out of there saying never again. They sold the same products as other neighborhood groceries for double (sometimes triple) the price! It’s sad when any jewish business goes bankrupt but they did it to themselves, they are generally open in areas where frum and jewish families need affordable food products on a daily basis. They did not provide it. Thus capitalism strikes again. I thought when i clicked on this article I’d see a write up about Onaah and not charging your customers above market price for products but instead found the exact opposite. I will not start to shop there, I’ll keep shopping at the other frum and more affordable establishments. Thank you, Rabbi Hoffman.

  10. Just to make you ALL aware…when we shop in these (Seasons, as well) heimishe frum stores, WE are spending OUR Yiddishe gelt. We have a right to spend it wherever WE want to, especially when we’re saving our Yiddishe gelt!!!

  11. Can anyone explain why Seasons and the other grocers in the 5Towns are so much more expensive than the frum Brooklyn stores? In many cases the 5Town sale prices are higher than the regular prices in Brooklyn.
    I simply don’t have the financial ability to support the overpriced 5Town stores.

  12. Strange that someone forgot that Aaron’s put Supersol, Brachs and many other smaller stores out of business. Seasons gave us another Frum option albeit pricier. For someone to suggest that Seasons has more “Spanish speaking” workers than other local stores proves that he either never stepped foot into any of their stores or is deliberately misstating the facts. If anything, part of the problem is that Season’s has too many Frum managers and employees which is much more expensive than goyish employees. One of their stated goals is to repay their vendors, why not be Dan Lkaf Zechus? I shop in their stores only sporadically however, I know many of the people involved and they’re truly selfless individuals.

  13. The theme of many of the posts above seems to be that we shouldn’t be obligated to reward incompetnece, poor business practices and in some cases sheer greed simply becaue the management of a business are landsmen. Most yidden are having a hard time making ends meet and the price of kosher food is aleady considerably higher than many can afford. Don’t suggest we should pay even more to help yidden who cannot succeed in the competitive marketplace