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The Lerner family was gathered around the Shabbos table, reading and discussing the Business Weekly halacha articles. In “Controversial Ruling,” Rabbi Dayan retracted from a ruling about the rental of a shul’s function hall, based on the concept of migo.

“What is migo?” asked twelve-year old Avi. “It sounds Japanese!”

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“Not quite,” laughed Mr. Lerner. “Migo is Aramaic, the language of the Gemara, and means ‘mitoch‘ – ‘due to the fact’ or, simply, ‘since.’ This concept is used often in the Gemara and Jewish monetary law.”

“We just learned about migo,” piped up fifteen-year-old Eli. “It came up in the Gemara we are learning in shiur.”

“Excellent!” exclaimed Mr. Lerner. “Perhaps you can explain to Avi and the rest of the family what migo is about?”

Migo applies in a case that a person, usually the defendant, states a weak claim, one that would not ordinarily be believed,” explained Eli. “Nonetheless, if he had an alternate, strong claim, which would be accepted, he is believed also on his weak claim.”

“What is the rationale for this?” asked Mr. Lerner’s brother, who was visiting for Shabbos.

“The simple explanation is that since – migo – he could have stated the strong claim, we have reason to believe he told the truth when he stated the weak claim,” explained Eli. “If his claim were not true and he were lying, he could have lied better and stated the strong claim instead. This lends credence that his weak claim is, in fact, the truth, and he is believed.”

“Can you give an example?” asked Avi.

“I spoke extensively with Rabbi Dayan about his ruling,” said Mr. Lerner. “Perhaps it’s best to give an example relevant for his case.”

“Remind me what the case was,” said Mrs. Lerner.

“Someone rented the shul’s function hall for a bar mitzvah on Shabbos and used it also for a melaveh malkah,” said Mr. Lerner. “When he came to pay afterward, he claimed that the rental included motzaei Shabbos, whereas the shul gabbai claimed the rental covered only Shabbos.”

“What did Rabbi Dayan say about migo?” asked the family.

“Rabbi Dayan explained that, in general, the renter is not believed about the duration of the rental,” continued Mr. Lerner. “Real estate remains in the possession of its owner, and he has the upper hand in cases of doubt. Nonetheless, the renter is believed here because of migo and does not have to pay extra for motzaei Shabbos.”

“How does migo apply here?” asked Eli.

“Rabbi Dayan explained it to me as follows,” said Mr. Lerner. “As the debate arose after the weekend and payment was already due, the renter would be believed that he already paid for motzaei Shabbos. (C.M. 78:5) Therefore, since – migo – he would be believed that he already paid and would be exempt from further payment, he is also believed that the rental included motzaei Shabbos. He has credence that he is telling the truth, since if he were lying and trying to evade payment, he could have simply claimed instead that he already paid for motzaei Shabbos with cash.”

“Rama rules in two places that if the renter has a migo he is believed, even though the landlord is considered in possession,” added Rabbi Dayan. “One of them is precisely this case, when there is a dispute about the length of the rental. Although the Rama presents it as a dispute, the Shach writes that there is no dispute about the issue and he is certainly believed.” (C.M. 312:16, 317:2; Shach 317:5)

“Thus, in the case of the Shabbos rental,” concluded Mr. Lerner, ” based on migo the renter is believed with a definitive claim that the rental included motzaei Shabbos.

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Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to subscribe@businesshalacha.com. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail ask@businesshalacha.com.
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