Rav Zilberstein: The Barber and the Twin


yitzchok-zilbersteinRav Yitzchok Zilberstein relates a fascinating legal query he once received. A young man entered a barber shop and requested that the barber give him a particularly good haircut, explaining that he was a groom who would be getting married that very evening. The greedy barber, aware that there were no competing barbers in the surrounding area and realizing that a groom on the day of his wedding would be quite pressed for time, informed his apparently helpless customer that the fee for the haircut would be double the usual price.

The groom was shocked and disgusted by the barber’s greed, yet he had no choice but to agree to the unfair demands. However, at the end of the haircut, when it was time to pay, he exclaimed, “Why should I pay you even a penny for this haircut? Don’t you know that I have miraculous hair that grows back to its original length just hours after it’s been cut? Your haircut hasn’t helped me in the slightest, and I shouldn’t owe you anything for it!” The astonished barber assured the groom that if he returned in the afternoon looking as he had before the haircut, he would happily give him another one free of charge.

The groom approached Rav Zilberstein with the following legal question: since the barber treated him unfairly and forced him to pay double the regular price, was he permitted to send in his identical twin brother (who hadn’t recently taken a haircut) to receive for free the second haircut which he was unjustly forced to pay for? Although the barber certainly wasn’t deserving of pity, and the groom’s quick thinking in his pursuit of equitable justice was quite original, Rav Zilberstein nevertheless wasn’t keen on his proposed method of being the barber’s “brother” in deceit.

{Oizer Alport-Points to Ponder, oalport@optonline.net}

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  1. Midevar sheker tirchak.

    However, it could be that the overage is ona’ah and thus the customer could refuse to pay it. One must ask a qualified bet din or a rav who has “yadin yadin”.

  2. It’s a very interesting case. Is there a tzad that the groom could get away with it. Lemaysa he agreed to pay double. Doesn’t the barber have a right to charge what ever he wants? Isn’t yado al elyona?

  3. Let me get this straight: The fellow is asking the Rav if he can, lulei demistafina, lie in order to get revenge on the barber for mistreating him.

    Hmmmm…where’s the shaila, exactly?

  4. In Rav Silberstein’s sefer Tuvicha Yabeu in parshas Vayeitzeih he brings proofs the chosson may have been permitted to do what he did.

  5. the mishna in hasocher es hapoliem speaks about fooling a worker that has agreed to work for you & then doesnt commit to the deal…

    the facts must be presented here
    1 when did the barber raise th price on him? prior to him sitting in the chair or not?

    very cute

  6. Of course if you sent your brother to the barber, it would be deception, heresy, impropriety and in fact impurity and terrifying. Of course, if you thought that you were really crafty and you could make that barber have a moment of fear of the supernatural, you might in fact have established that there is a way that is somewhat justified, but in fact it would be a prank and essentially not a practical joke as you meant it with a threat.
    But of course, this is likely never to happen and most barbers know their customers.
    So therefore, I think that the meer consideration of such a scoundrel laden endeavor makes the writer and conceiver of this prank a little bit ill, impure and unjust. We as jews should not fool around with propriety and we should always be aware that our conceived notions of superiority right of the moment is not in fact a true orthodox way to live. If someone charges you double for your haircut and you are in a bind that you must pay the demanded price, you are a victim and there is a Creator who will bring justice in the world to come to those who have been wronged.

  7. The reason this story is unreliable:

    The customer was a groom getting married “that very evening.” For him to be so concerned with a few bucks on his wedding day, to the point that he will send his brother – who no doubt is also occupied preparing for the wedding – to visit this barber, casts a doubt on this tale.