Keeping your Word plus more – Bava Metzia 49

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Keeping your Word

Rav and Rabbi Yochanan debate whether backing out of a verbal commitment is considered untrustworthy. The Halachah (C”M 204:7-9) follows Rabbi Yochanan, as he has clear support in the opinions of the Tannaim.

 

The Rishonim debate the parameters of their opinions.

 

Rashi indicates that Rav only allows one to back out of a verbal commitment when conditions changed, as in the case of Rav Kahana.

 

Many Rishonim, including the Rif, Ramban, Tosfos (49a Modeh) and Rashba hold that Rav and Rabbi Yochanan hold their positions regardless of whether conditions changed. In all cases, Rav says it is considered trustworthy, while Rabbi Yochanan says it is considered untrustworthy.

 

The Baal Hamaor and the Rosh say that both Rav and Rabbi Yochanan allow one to back out of a verbal commitment if conditions changed.

 

The table below summarizes these opinions:

 

Conditions changed?

 

Rashi

Ramban, Rif, Rashba, Tosfos

Rosh, Baal Hamaor

Yes

Rav

Yes

Yes

Yes

Rabbi Yochanan

No

No

Yes

No

Rav

No

Yes

Yes

Rabbi Yochanan

No

No

No

 

According to the Baal Hamaor, even Rabbi Yochanan would agree to the ruling Rav gave Rav Kahana, and the Gemora only used the story as a springboard for the more general debate.

 

In the course of the discussion, the Gemora quoted the statement that we learn that one must keep his “hin” (yes) just, by keeping his word. Abaye deflected this as a proof to Rabbi Yochanan by limiting this requirement to one meaning what he says at the time he says it. According to the Baal Hamaor, Abaye’s statement is also relevant to Rabbi Yochanan, since he allows one to violate his verbal commitment if conditions changed.

 

The Nimukei Yosef explains that in any case Abaye’s statement is relevant to Rabbi Yochanan, since Rabbi Yochanan agrees that one may violate a verbal commitment on which the recipient did not rely (e.g., a large gift). Therefore, the Rif quotes Abaye, although he rules like Rabbi Yochanan. Once someone is called untrustworthy, the community is allowed to employ social sanction, by calling him wicked, and announcing in public what he did.

Promising an Honor

The Rishonim discuss a case where a father committed to honor someone with part of the bris ceremony, either as a sandak or a mohel, and then changed his mind. (See Beis Yosef YD 264)

 

The Maharam says that since these commitments are routinely made and kept, the commitment is enforceable in court.

 

Rabbeinu Yechiyel limits this to a commitment made after the baby was born.

 

The Rosh disagrees, and says that only a standard kinyan is enforceable.

 

Rabbeinu Tam says that if one committed to a mohel to do his son’s bris, this has the status of a verbal commitment, and one who does not keep it is considered untrustworthy.

 

The Pri Yitzchak says that committing to a mohel has the status of a small gift, since the father typically cannot perform the bris, and he is simply giving the right to choose the mohel. However, committing to a sandak is a large gift, since the father himself can do that, and he is giving that right to the sandak. Since it is a large gift, a verbal commitment would not be binding.

What is a Sixth?

Shmuel states that ona’ah includes a case of a sixth of the sale price, even if it is not a sixth of the fair price. Shmuel also agrees that a sixth of the fair price is considered ona’ah. Therefore, according to Shmuel, all the cases below are ona’ah:

  1. Item worth 70, sold for 60
  2. Item worth 60, sold for 50
  3. Item worth 60, sold for 70
  4. Item worth 50, sold for 60

 

The Rambam (Mechira 12:3) says that anything less than a sixth is considered forgiven. The Rambam gives two examples:

  1. Item worth 60, sold for 51
  2. Item worth 60, sold for 69

 

The Magid Mishnah challenges the first case of the Rambam. In this case, a sixth of the fair price is 10, while a sixth of the sale price is 8.5. The difference in the sale is less than a sixth of the fair price, but is more than a sixth of the sale price (8.5), and should be ona’ah according to Shmuel!?

 

The Shulchan Aruch (HM 227:3) only discusses the second case, while the Rama (227:4) cites the first case.

 

The Sma (227:5,11) rules like the Magid Mishnah.

 

The Taz explains that the Rambam holds that Shmuel accepts either form of sixth, but only at a sixth. Any other deviation is evaluated based on the fair price only. See Drisha C”M 227:4 for more details.

 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FROM YESTERDAYS DAF

to refresh your memory

 

Q: What is said about someone who retracts his words?

 

A: The Chachamim are not pleased with him.

 

Q: How does a gentile acquire merchandise according to Rish Lakish?

 

A: Money.

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