Question: Is there halachic basis to give priority to patronizing Jewish businesses?
Answer: Toras Kohanim derives from the verse, “When you sell something to your fellow or buy from the hand of your fellow” (Vayikra 25:14), that one should give commercial priority to his Jewish brethren. This halacha is not mentioned in Shulchan Aruch, but is cited by numerous responsa.
The poskim debate whether the law applies if the non-Jew sells for cheaper. Rama (Responsa #10) cites this law to give priority to an edition of the Rambam printed by Maharam Padua over a competing, cheaper edition printed by a non-Jew. He understands from the Gemara (B.M. 71a; Pesachim 21b) that the law applies even when there is a price difference between the two and there will be a loss in buying from the Jew.
On the other hand, some achronim argue that this law is only “proper advice” (Korban Ha’eda on Toras Kohanim). A number of others maintain that it applies only when there is no price differential (Maharsham in Mishpat Shalom C.M. 189). Maharam Shick (C.M. #31) also maintains that a businessman does not need to buy from a Jewish supplier who is more expensive, but should do so if it is only an issue of convenience.
There is a third, middle position advocated by some achronim, which will be discussed next week, IY”H.
Authored by Rabbi Meir Orlian
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