From where do we know that, when you sell, you should sell to a fellow Jew? The verse states "when you shall sell to your fellow” you shall sell. And from where [do we learn] to buy merchandise from your fellow Jew? The verse states “or when you buy from the hand of your fellow.” (Rashi, Leviticus 25:14)
Shlomo left his apartment building’s committee meeting with a smile on his face. The hour was late, but they had accomplished a lot. High on the agenda was the giant weed patch that served as the building’s front lawn. The scraggly overgrown mess added little to the charm of the building, and all present agreed that it was time to hire a gardener.
Several days later, as Shlomo was approaching his building after a long day’s work, he spotted a man with pruning shears, hard at work in the front yard. “Shalom” he called out. When the gardener returned the greeting, Shlomo was startled to hear that the man’s Hebrew had a distinct Arab accent.
In the course of the brief conversation that followed, Shlomo learned several things. The building’s new gardener was named Achmed, he had been in the gardening business for eight years, and he was particularly skilled at pruning olive trees. Most disturbing to Shlomo was one final tidbit: Achmed lived in a local Arab village, which had been home to numerous terrorists in the past!
“I don’t understand why Mr. Cohen would hire an Arab worker” Shlomo thought to himself. “There’s no shortage of qualified Jewish gardeners around here!”
As soon as Shlomo walked into his apartment, he sat down with a phone book and began calling every gardener listed. In under an hour, he had a list of gardeners who charged reasonable rates, and were more than willing to take on the job. True, they charged a bit more than Achmed, but for security it was worth it!
Shlomo was about to go over to Mr. Cohen’s house, with his findings, when Shlomo’s wife spoke. “Shlomo, maybe we don’t need to be so concerned about Achmed. He seems nice enough, and he did a good job on the yard. Besides, it’s not like he comes every day.”
Shlomo thought over his wife’s words. “There’s another problem, though. I’m not sure that it’s proper to support a non-Jew, when we’re equally capable of supporting a Jew.”
Shlomo and his wife discussed the matter for a few more minutes, until Shlomo’s wife said “why don’t we ask the rabbi what we should do?”
The two of them went to the rabbi, and asked the following question: Are they responsible to replace the Arab gardener with one who is Jewish? After all, it is forbidden to hire a non-Jew when one is capable of hiring a Jew to do the same work. Additionally, there is a security concern, that Achmed might pose a threat to the Jews in the neighborhood. What should they do?
Answer of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l:
Ideally, if a person has two options – to hire a Jew or to hire a non-Jew – he should hire the Jewish worker, as the verse states “or when you buy from the hand of your friend” (see above). According to the Rama (Responsa of the Rama, siman 10), even if the Jew charges more than the non-Jew, one should hire the Jew. How much financial loss must we be willing to incur, in order to support a fellow Jew, when there is a non-Jew who charges less? As long as the Jew does not charge more than a fifth more than his non-Jewish counterpart, we should hire the Jew. (The Maharshal disagrees with this ruling of the Rama, however, in his book Ahavat Chesed (chapter 5), the Chafetz Chaim rules in accordance with the Rama.)
In our case, the apartment committee already hired the non-Jewish gardener. Firing him, at this point, is likely to cause ill will. The gardener is likely to be offended that he was fired, and become angry at the Jews. This might be dangerous. However, the present situation is also potentially dangerous, because there is an Arab who lives in a hostile village who is coming regularly to work in the yard of a Jewish building. In practice, the committee must weigh which course of action is likely to cause the least danger – retaining the Arab worker, or letting him go. (“V’aleihu Lo Yibol,” section 2’ page159)