BAVA METZIA 46-49 - Dedicated by Mrs. Rita Grunberger of Queens, N.Y., in loving memory of her husband, Reb Yitzchok Yakov ben Eliyahu Grunberger. Irving Grunberger helped many people quietly in an unassuming manner and is dearly missed by all who knew him. His Yahrzeit is 10 Sivan.


OPINIONS: Rav and Rebbi Yochanan disagree about one who retracts his word in a business transaction. Rav says that such a person is not considered untrustworthy. Rebbi Yochanan says that such a person is considered untrustworthy. In exactly what case do they disagree?

(a) RASHI (DH Shelo) explains that Rav maintains that when one commits to sell merchandise at a certain price, and the price of the merchandise rises, he is not obligated to supply the merchandise at the originally-stated price. Since he cannot purchase the merchandise for the low price, Rav says that he is not bound by his earlier price quote. This implies that Rebbi Yochanan maintains that even in this case a seller who retracts on a price quote is called untrustworthy. This is also the opinion of the RASHBA, RAMBAN, and other Rishonim.

(b) The BA'AL HA'ME'OR explains that the case of the Gemara is where the person who agreed on a price retracts his offer regardless of whether or not the price of the merchandise went up or down. Rav says that retracting a price does not make someone untrustworthy, while Rebbi Yochanan says that it does. The Ba'al ha'Me'or understands that even Rebbi Yochanan agrees that one who retracts because the price of the merchandise changed is not called untrustworthy.

These opinions similarly argue about the explanation of the previous Gemara. The Gemara relates that Rav Kahana agreed to sell flax to a buyer, who put down some money towards the purchase of the flax. Afterwards, the price of flax rose. When Rav Kahana went to Rav to ask whether or not he must honor the purchase agreement at the original price, Rav answered that only the merchandise corresponding to the money which was already paid needs to be given at the original price. The rest is only a verbal agreement which the seller may retract due to the rise in price. The Ba'al ha'Me'or learns that Rebbi Yochanan agrees with Rav in this case. Although the Gemara records the dispute between Rav and Rebbi Yochanan about retracting verbal agreements immediately after the case of Rav Kahana, they disagree only in a case similar, but not identical, to the case Rav Kahana. Some texts introduce the dispute between Rav and Rebbi Yochanan with the word "Itmar" ("it was said"), which serves to separate the dispute between Rav and Rebbi Yochanan from the case of Rav Kahana, and it indicates that the two Gemaras are not discussing similar cases. This is in contrast to the text of "d'Itmar" -- "as it was said," which indicates that the dispute is a continuation of the Gemara's discussion of the case of Rav Kahana, and which implies that Rebbi Yochanan argues with Rav's ruling in the case of Rav Kahana. The word "d'Itmar" is the Girsa of our text, and it is consistent with the Rishonim who learn like Rashi and explain that Rav's ruling in the case of Rav Kahana is in opposition to the opinion of Rebbi Yochanan, who maintains that even if the price of the merchandise changes, a person is still called untrustworthy for retracting his word. (Y. MONTROSE)



OPINIONS: The Mishnah teaches that a person has a certain amount of time to claim his money back when he was overcharged in a case of Ona'ah. That amount of time is the time it takes him to show the item to a merchant or relative, who will tell him the item's true value.

TOSFOS (DH Bichdei) asks what exactly constitutes this amount of time. Is it an objective, set amount of time, or does it depend on how far away the closest merchant or relative is located?

(a) TOSFOS explains that it is a standard length of time based on how long it normally takes for a person to show his merchandise to a merchant or relative. Even if a certain buyer does not have the ability to reach a merchant or relative in this average length of time, he may not withdraw from the sale once this time passes.

The ZERA YITZCHAK asks that Tosfos' question does not seem to begin. The Torah prohibits Ona'ah, cheating the other party in a sale. The Rabanan reasoned that when the cheated party does not claim that he was cheated after he has had time to have the item appraised, he must have forfeited any claim of Ona'ah. Why do the Rabanan need to have one uniform amount of time in which one must make a claim? Since one's right to claim Ona'ah depends on forfeiture, each case should be judged individually, based on whether or not the person had time to assess the item.

The Zera Yitzchak explains that Tosfos understands that the Mishnah here refers to a fixed amount of time because of the next part of the Mishnah. The Mishnah relates that the merchants of Lud did not want the amount of time in which a buyer could cancel the sale to be one day. If the amount of time depends on the person's ability to show his merchandise to a merchant or relative, it sometimes might take more than one day. Why, then, were the merchants of Lud unwilling to accept that the amount of time should be one day? It must be that there was a fixed amount of time in which a buyer was entitled to appraise the value of his purchase.

(b) The TUR (CM 227) quotes his father, the ROSH, who says that if one was lazy and did not bother to find out whether he was the victim of Ona'ah, he forfeits his right to withdraw from the sale. The Tur adds that this implies that if he was not lazy but was unable (beyond his control) to assess the value of his purchase, he retains the right to withdraw from the sale. This is the ruling of the SHULCHAN ARUCH (CM 227:7; see also 227:15).

Even according to Tosfos, it seems that in a place where the closest merchants who can assess the item are a very long distance away, the buyer has a longer period of time in which to claim Ona'ah. Such a case was presented to the LECHEM RAV (#226). The sale involved an expensive piece of jewelry, the price of which was set based on what jewelers charge in the large cities. Since there were no jewelers in the city in which the transaction took place, the Lechem Rav ruled that the buyer may wait longer than the amount of time it takes to go to a jeweler in the other city and back, as not everyone is able to run right away to another city and have his item appraised. The MAHARSHAM (3:307) agrees with the Lechem Rav in this case, but he adds that if the appraisal was available in the city, the regular amount of time would apply (according to Tosfos). (Y. MONTROSE)