By Rabbi Yosef Grunwald
Occasionally, in the course of business dealings, people can get angry or upset and say or do things they regret later on. Do such actions have legal validity according to Halachah?
Let us consider the following example. Someone took a ride in a taxi, and at the conclusion of the trip, he began haggling with the driver over the price of the ride. The passenger handed the driver the amount he wanted to pay, but the driver got very upset, and said, “If you don’t pay my price, don’t pay me anything, just get out of my taxi!” The driver then threw the money in the passenger’s face, and drove away. Do we consider the taxi driver’s actions to be a mechilah of the entire fee for the trip, or do we say that since the driver was speaking out of anger, it is not considered a mechilah, and the passenger still owes money for the ride?
The Ruling of the Maharit
A similar question was presented to the Maharit. A tenant entered into an agreement with a landlord to rent his house for 12 months, and committed himself (with a kinyan) that if he were to leave in the middle of the term, he would pay the entire rent of the 12 months. At some point during the rental, the landlord and tenant got into an argument, and the landlord shouted at the renter to leave the house and to never return. The tenant claimed that he can now leave without paying the 12 months’ rent, because the landlord, by asking him to leave, had essentially waived the rental agreement.
The Maharit responded that the language of the Rambam1implies that one’s actions have legal validity only if they are done “belev shaleim,”wholeheartedly. Since the landlord was speaking out of anger, this is not considered “belev shaleim,” and thus his words do not constitute a mechilah.2
The Halachah of Get Mekushar
However, the ruling of the Maharit seems to be in contradicted by the halachah of get mekushar.3 This halachah states that a Kohen must use a specialget, a get mekushar, when divorcing his wife. This was out of concern that the Kohen might divorce his wife out of anger, and if he would change his mind later it would be too late, since a Kohen may not marry a divorced woman. He must therefore use a get mekushar, which took a long time to write, and would give him the chance to calm down. We learn from this that a divorce made out of anger does take effect, unlike the Maharit’s ruling that actions done out of anger do not have legal validity.4
There are several approaches to resolve this difficulty.
The First Approach
The Dovev Meisharim5suggests that in the case of the Kohen’s divorce, the Kohen is not angry at the time of the divorce itself. Rather, he comes to his decision to divorce out of anger, but when he actually gives the get he is calm. Thus, although his decision was made out of anger, and he may regret it later on, the divorce itself is valid. However, in the case of the Maharit, the landlord was angry at the time of the actual mechilah. Therefore, themechilah does not take effect.
The Dovev Meisharim, however, rejects this approach, because it is apparent from a Gemara in Gittin6that a divorce is valid even if the husband was angry at the time of the divorce.
The Second Approach
Another possible distinction between the case of get and the case of mechilah is as follows. With respect to a get, the act of divorce is not an act that is inherently done out of anger, because people do not generally divorce out of anger. Thus, although the Kohen divorced out of anger, this does not define the nature of the act; the divorce itself is considered an act done with intent. However, in the case of mechilah, the landlord expressed hismechilah by shouting at the renter. Thus, the very act of mechilah was an act of anger, and is invalid.
However, it is evident from a ruling of the Ri MiGash that this distinction is not true. The Ri MiGash deals with a case in which a lender and borrower were arguing about the terms of the loan, and in a fit of anger, the lender ripped up the loan document. He rules that this act is considered a mechilahof the loan, since no one rips up a valid loan document. This proves that even an act that is always done out of anger, such as ripping up a document, has validity.
The Third Approach
The Dovev Meisharim thereforesuggests a third approach, one that he accepts as halachah lemaaseh. He explains that the reason why a divorce works out of anger is because divorcing involves the physical action of giving the get to the wife. And we assume that a person does not do an action unless he really wants to do it. Therefore, when a Kohen divorces out of anger, it is considered that he divorced with full intent. However, in the case of theMaharit, where the person made his mechilah with mere words, it does not take effectwhen done out of anger.
In conclusion, if a person performs a transaction with a physical action, it takes effect even if he did so out of anger. However, if he does the transaction verbally, it is not legally binding.
Based upon this, the halachah in the case of the taxi driver is that we consider the driver’s outburst to be a valid mechilah. This is because by throwing the money at the passenger, the driver expressed his mechilah with an action, and actions are legally binding even when done out of anger. Thus, the passenger owes nothing for the trip.
1 פ“ה מהלכות מכירה הי“ג, וז“ל, לפיכך אם אמר בלב שלם אני אמרתי וגמרתי לעשות דבר זה וכו‘ עכ“ל.
2 ועיין בס‘ שו“ת גינת ורדים ובשו“ת חיים שאל שגם הם פסקו שמעשה הנעשה מתוך כעס אינו חל ע“פ דברי הרמב“ם הנ“ל. וע“ע ברמ“א חו“מ סי‘ של“ג ס“ח שמביא מר‘ ירוחם שפסק לענין בעה“ב שאמר לפועל לך מעמדי שאם אמר כן דרך כעס אינו נחשב מחילה, ומבואר בפוסקים דכך נקטינן להלכה.
3 דף ק“ס ע“א
4 עיין בפ“ת חו“מ שם ס“ק י“ז שהביא שהתו“ח באמת פליג על דינו של ר‘ ירוחם וראייתו מהדין דגט מקושר. ועע“ש שהביא משו“ת חת“ס שכ‘ שבקל אפשר לדחות ראיית התו“ח אבל לא ביאר מהו הדחיי‘.
5 ח“ב סי‘ ל“ח
6 דף כ“ו ע“ב