Mechusar Amanah (2)

Earlier, we discussed three סוגיות dealing with מחוסר אמנה. In this post, we’ll discuss the הלכה למעשה, and try and explain all three sources according to both sides.

The first גמרא was from בבא מציעא on 48b, where ר’ חייא בר יוסף was once payed for part of a large order of salt. Before he received the entire paying, the price went up. רבי יוחנן told him that he has to finish the sale (with the original buyer, at the original amount), and he cannot back out of the deal with the buyer and find a new buyer at the higher price. ר’ חייא בר יוסף apparently thought that he would only be obligated to sell an amount of salt corresponding to the amount of money payed, and the rest is just דברים. It is implied that if it was just דברים, there would be nothing wrong with retracting.

The second גמרא was קידושין on 8b, where the sons of רב הונא בר אבין wanted to buy a maidservant and left an item as a משכון. By the time they returned with the money, they maidservant was worth more, and the owner wanted to void the transaction and sell it to someone else for a higher price. רבי אמי ruled that there is no מי שפרע, and the seller can retract, with no mention of מחוסר אמנה.

As a (more complicated) contrast, we have the גמרא in בבא מציעא on 49a. There, רב כהנא received partial payment for some flax, which subsequently appreciate in value. רב ruled that he has to sell the amount corresponding to the original payment, but the rest is just “דברים”, and דברים has no מחיסרי אמנה. The גמרא proves that this is רב’s opinion by bringing a ברייתא.

דאיתמר דברים רב אמר אין בהן משום מחיסרי אמנה ורבי יוחנן אמר יש בהם משום מחיסרי אמנה

The bolded ד will be important later.

Here, we have no clarifications in the ברייתא whether or not the מחלוקת is in a case of חד תרעא, תרי תרעי, or both.

The טור writes in 204:

אף על פי שבדברים בלא מעות אין צירך לקבל עליו מי שפרע מכל מקום ראוי לאדם לעמוד בדיבורו אף על פי שלא לקח מהדים כלום ולא רשם ולא נתן משכון וכל החוזר בו בין לוקח בין מוכר הרי זה ממחוסרי אמנה ואין רוח חכמים נוחה הימנו. וכתב בעל המאור הני מילי בחד תרעא אבל בתרי תרעי אין זה ממכוסרי אמנה

The רמ”א writes, in 204:11:

אף על פי שבדברים בלא מעות יכול להחזור בו וא”צ לקבל עליו מי שפרע מ”מ ראוי לאדם לעמוד בדיבורו אע”פ שלא עשה שום קניין רק דברים בעלמא וכל החוזר בו בין לוקח בין מוכר אין רוח חכמים נוחה הימנו והני מילי בחד תרעא אבל בתרי תרעי אין ×–×” ממכוסרי אמנה

According to the טור, the הלכה of מחוסר אמנה applies in any case, regardless of any external market forces. According to the בעל המאור, and the רמ”א, this only applies if there was no price change. Where the price has changed, no stigma is attached to retracting (it appears that this is not the equivalent of a mistaken sale, where either party could retract, but rather an excuse that the disadvantaged party can use if he wishes to retract).

The first opinion in the טור (the בית יוסף lists an impressive list of ראשונים who agree; we’ll call this תוספות’s view here) seems to follow the ברייתא. We have a מחלוקת (see later for why we believe they argue in this case) between רב and רבי יוחנן, and we פסקן like רבי יוחנן.

Regarding the first two cases, we can say that in the the first case, the implicit דיוק was only accord to רב. After all, we conclude that ר’ חייא בר יוסף held like רב regarding how much of an obligation a partial payment creates, and perhaps he therefore held like רב regarding מחוסר אמנה as well. Even though the question was addressed to רבי יוחנן, the only proof we had was from an implicit דיוק based on the fact that ר’ חייא בר יוסף personally wasn’t worried about מחוסר אמנה. As far as רבי יוחנן is concerned, the question never comes up, since he’d be obligated in a מי שפרע, which is much more serious!

The second גמרא deals with a question from the sons of רב הונא בר אבין to רבי אמי. Perhaps there, רבי אמי rules according to רב.

The third גמרא seems to support the תוספות’s opinion, that there is מחוסר אמנה even by תרי תרעי.

According to the רמ”א’s opinion, the first two sources seem clear. The third needs a bit of explaining, however.

Perhaps we can say that the ברייתא being brought down doesn’t apply to תרי תרעי. After all, the only thing the ברייתא says is “דברים”, with no mention of a case. The only opinion quoted explicitly in the גמרא regarding תרי תרעי is רב, and we have no reason to assume that רבי יוחנן argued. Perhaps the only מחלוקת was in a case of חד תרעא, and the גמרא brought this down since if רב allows one to retract even in חד תרעא, then for sure he would have no objection to retracting in a case of תרי תרעי.

The only problem with this theory is the ד in דאיתמר as highlighted above. The Rav suggested that if the גמרא just intended to bring the ברייתא for רב, it should say איתמר, implying that we have a source that’s relevant. From the דאיתמר, it sounds like it’s a directly applicable proof, suggesting that the entire ברייתא, include רבי יוחנן, is relevant to our case of תרי תרעי (supporting the תוספות’s opinion).


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