‘Seeds That Did Not Sprout’
(Bava Basra 92a)
The Rosh (Responsa, 104:6) and Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 333:8) rule that a person who orders a workman to make something for him must pay for it once it’s done, even if he no longer wants it, if the workman stands to suffer a loss. Although no kinyan was made, the situation is no different from any other instance where damage was caused, and one is normally responsible for any damage one causes.
Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Responsa Rabbi Akiva Eiger, 1st ed., 134), in light of the mishnah on our daf, asks the following question. The mishnah states that a person who bought fruit can’t demand expenses from the seller if he planted the fruit with no yield. According to the Rosh (and the Mechaber), though, why shouldn’t the seller have to pay damages?
Rabbi Akiva Eiger answers this question by distinguishing the two cases. When someone sells another person seeds, the transaction ends right there. Did the seller instruct the buyer to sow them? No. The buyer sowed them for his own benefit on his own initiative. A person who asks someone to make an object for him, though, does in fact cause another person to work for him. Therefore, if he changes his mind, he must compensate him.
Important to note is Rashi’s (sv. “hamocher peyros”) reading of the mishnah – that the person who sold the fruit made no claims regarding its fitness for planting or eating.
Rishonim disagree as to whether a chasan who breaks a shidduch must pay for the engagement party that was already paid for by the kallah’s family. According to the Rambam, he must pay, but the Raavad disagrees (Hilchos Zechiyah Umatanah 6:24).
This disagreement depends on what one compares getting engaged to – selling seeds or ordering an object.
A young man who agrees to a shidduch normally assumes that there will be an engagement party, as this event is de rigueur. That’s why the Rambam says the chassan must pay for the party. Nevertheless, he did not actually order it, just as the seller did not instruct the buyer to plant the seeds. Consequently, the Raavad reasons that we cannot make him pay (see Magid Mishnah, ibid; Erech Shai, Even Haezer 50, siman katan 9; Machaneh Efrayim on the Rambam, ibid; Chelkas Mechokek, 50:10; and Tiv Kiddushin, 50:11).
An Extravagant Banquet
Even the Rambam agrees, though, that if the kallah’s parents held a party more extravagant than is customary, we cannot make the chassan pay more than the price of an ordinary party (Radbaz, I:329; Tashbetz, II, 166; Responsa Maharash Engel, V:153).