Erechin

Erechin 16b: Staying at the Same Inn

Erechin 16b: Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: From where in the Torah do we learn that a person should not change his place of lodging? From the verse (Bereishis 13:3), “[Avraham traveled] until the place where his tent was earlier.” Rabbi Yossi bar Chanina said: From the words, “He traveled on his [earlier] journeys.” What is the practical difference between these two opinions? For a traveler who happens to sleep there. (Rashi: He stopped there just because it happened to get dark in that place.) 

אמר רב יהודה אמר רב: מנין שלא ישנה אדם באכסניא שלו מן התורה? שנאמר: (בראשית י״ג) עד המקום אשר היה שם אהלו בתחלה. רבי יוסי ברבי חנינא אמר, מהכא: (בראשית י״ג) וילך למסעיו. מאי בינייהו? איכא בינייהו אכסנאי דאקראי.

Once, Rabbi Yisroel Salanter came to Dvinsk, and no one in town knew of his visit. He rented a run-down room in a basement. A short time later, he came to Dvinsk again, this time with public fanfare. The gedolim and important people of the town gave him tremendous honor. But incredibly, he lodged in the same basement again, and all his great visitors had to come to speak to him there. All their pleas to him to let them find him a more appropriate accommodation were in vain; he would not violate Chazal’s dictum that a person should not change his place of lodging.

[It could be argued that the rule of not changing one’s place of lodging applies only when the old host and the new host are both inviting you to their houses; in that case you should not offend your old host by staying with a different host. But in a case when a person pays money for his room, it may happen that the first time he was only able to afford a low-quality room, and now he can afford something better, or perhaps now he needs something better and is willing to pay for it. In this case the laws of the free market take over: if the old hotel owner is not providing the product he needs, he can search elsewhere.

From this story, however, we see that Reb Yisroel held that even when one is paying money, the rule applies because there is still some personal honor involved: the first inn owner would feel slighted if he saw Reb Yisroel coming to town and staying somewhere else.

The Gemara brings a dispute as to whether this law applies when a person just happened to lodge somewhere. The question is which opinion the halacha follows, and, if it follows the lenient opinion, whether this leniency applies to our case, where Reb Yisroel just happened to lodge in the basement the first time because he couldn’t afford more. From the story, in which Reb Yisroel was strict, we can conclude that either he paskened like the stricter opinion, or else he held that even the lenient opinion only said it in a case when he didn’t mean to stay in the town at all, just stopped there because it got dark, but in this case, where he meant to stay in Dvinsk, everyone would agree that he must stay at the same place of lodging.]