“Turn toward the high-quality ones.”
Today’s Daf Yomi discussion of interconnected households extends the considerations to business partnerships. We are told that if neighbors are partners in a wine business together, they are essentially considered a single household and no eruv is necessary. The translated text uses the phrase “authentic partnership” which suggests it needs to be a formal arrangement that has been agreed upon.
The story becomes complicated, however, when more than one household is involved, as often is the case when one is dealing with multiple neighbors who may have different agendas and priorities. If an industrious neighbor has entered into a wine partnership with his neighbor on the right and an oil one with his neighbor on the left, then there is no assumption of a conjoined household and all three must establish an eruv. However, there is always another opinion in the Talmud and if you don’t like what one Rabbi says you can often turn to another. Rabbi Shimon in fact says that if a household has entered into different businesses with his neighbors, no eruv is required.
Rav further clarifies and says that Rabbi Shimon’s opinion holds only if the wine partnership involves a single vessel. Abaye weighs in and challenges Rava who said the vessels are of no importance. Abaye says that what matters is that the wine owned by the two households can be mixed together (although the value of the wine would be severely devalued), while wine and oil cannot.
Rabbi Shimon compares the business arrangement among the three households to three homes that open onto a courtyard and into the public domain. If the two outer households established an eruv with the middle one, then the residents of the middle one can carry with the two outer ones. But the two outer ones cannot carry with each other, since they did not establish an eruv with each other. If you don’t like that opinion, Abaye offers another perspective. He provides a dissenting opinion and says that in this case all three households can carry with each other.
Can one shop around for Rabbinic opinions in the way you can for medical ones? I am not sure what the business arrangements were among the neighbors in today’s Daf Yomi reading. Were they in cooperative agreements where they purchased wine and oil together for their own consumption? Was the wine delivered to the households in large barrels that required siphoning of their own allotted amount? Or were they in business together and sold wine and oil from the shared barrels to others?
Today’s discussion gave me an idea about city partnerships. What if the small businesses that are struggling in cities across America or in other places around the world came together as the conjoined households that are described in the Daf Yomi readings and formed partnerships, that are sponsored by city, state and federal governments? Would they have a better chance to survive if on any given block the bodega and restaurant and dry cleaner and nail salon formed a neighborhood cooperative to support each other? Could they establish a fund that is supported by government entities, non-profits and local neighbors in order to provide stop-gap liquidity during this difficult time and in the event that they need to close down again because of the pandemic and all non-essential business is put on pause?
Maybe it is unrealistic to imagine this would work everywhere, but these times require a different way of thinking and out of the box solutions. The discussion of conjoined households in the Talmud provide a model for the power of coming together as neighbors who live and conduct business side-by-side. Oil and wine can indeed mix when there is a shared purpose in our communities.