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January 19, 2017 / 21 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Baba Metzia’


Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

In Behar, one of this week’s parshiyos, the Torah commands us in regard to some of the laws of buying and selling. The pasuk says, “Vechi simkiru mimkar la’amisecha … al tonu ish es achiv – When you make a sale to your fellow … do not afflict one another.” The Gemara in Baba Metzia 51a derives from this pasuk that one may not overcharge when selling an item without informing the buyer. This is referred to as ona’ah. The Gemara says that if one charges more than a sixth more than the market value of an item, the sale is void. If one charges less than a sixth more, the sale is valid. If one charges exactly a sixth more, the sale is valid; however, the seller must return the overcharge.

The Rush, in the fourth perek of Baba Metzia, says that he is not sure whether one is prohibited from intentionally charging less than a sixth more than the market value. Even though the sale is valid and the seller does not have to return the overcharge, perhaps it is prohibited – for this too is considered ona’ah. The reason that the sale is valid and the seller may keep the overcharge is because we assume that the buyer will be mochel (forgo) on a small percentage. The Smah (Choshen Mishpat 227:14) says that one may not claim that he was not willing to forgo the overcharge of less than a sixth. Or, says the Rush, perhaps it is part of the normal process of transactions to charge a little more – and it is not considered ona’ah.

The Ramban, in his commentary on the Torah, says that even though the Gemara in Baba Metzia 56b derives from a pasuk that ona’ah does not apply to land, the prohibition nevertheless applies. The exclusion is only on the monetary aspect, but if one charges more than a sixth for the sale of land he will have transgressed the lav. The reason that one does not have to return the ona’ah of a real estate purchase, even if it is more than a sixth extra, is because we assume that people will forgo the extra amount – just as they would when it is less than a sixth on the sale of an item. However, in both circumstances, it is forbidden to do so.

The Sefer Hachinuch (mitzvah 337) takes a different view on this matter. He says that one is completely permitted to charge up to a sixth more than the market value of movable objects. He agrees with the Ramban that even though one does not have to return the extra amount that he charged for real estate, even if it exceeds a sixth, it is nonetheless forbidden to do so.

The Minchas Chinuch says that the Rambam agrees with the Sefer Hachinuch (that one is permitted to charge up to a sixth more for movable objects). He proves the Rambam’s view that it is permitted because the Rambam says that one does not receive lashes when he transgresses this prohibition. This is because it is nitein letashlumin (one must repay) i.e. he must return the overcharge. Since the halacha is that one is not required to return an overcharge of up to a sixth, he should receive lashes in that case since it is not returnable.

We find this concept by the prohibition of hitting another. If the wound is significant enough to require damages amounting to more than a prutah, the damager does not receive lashes since he must pay money. However, if the wound does not amount to damages worth a prutah he receives lashes since he cannot repay. Therefore, if it would be prohibited to charge up to a sixth more, the seller should receive lashes since he is not required to repay.

The Minchas Chinuch, however, says that this is not necessarily proof that the Rambam’s view is that one is permitted to charge up to a sixth more than the value of movable objects. This is so because, as mentioned earlier, the reason that one is not required to return the ona’ah of up to a sixth is because the buyer is mochel the extra amount. Hence, from a technical standpoint, one is required to return the extra amount – except that in this case he was mochel the obligation.

Rabbi Raphael Fuchs

Rav Yaakov Berlin

Friday, March 16th, 2012

One of the great gaonim was Rav Yaakov Berlin, the father of the Netziv (Naftali Tzvi Yehuda of Berlin), the rosh yeshiva of the Volozhin Yeshiva and a leader of European Jewry at the close of the 19th century.

Besides being a brilliant Torah scholar, he was a wealthy merchant whose honest dealings were known far and wide. He lived in the city of Mir, in the province of Minsk, and his good name and deeds were known throughout Europe. His door was always open to the poor and his name was blessed by all.

Buys Expensive Glassware

Once, when Rav Yaakov was traveling outside Russia, he purchased a very expensive set of cut glassware. He spent over 100 gold coins (considered to be a very large sum in those days). His wife was overjoyed at such a valuable gift and she treasured it as one of her most valuable possessions.

When questioned about purchasing such an expensive gift, he replied, “Chazal have explained the meaning of the sentence in Shemos (15:2), ‘This is my L-rd; I will glorify Him to mean that we are to honor Him with beautiful mitzvos, such as a beautiful esrog (Shabbos 133b). The Talmud (Berachos 55a) teaches us that when we purchase new utensils we have to make the blessing of Shehechiyanu. Now isn’t it fitting that we make this blessing over the best of utensils?”

Champions The Underdog

One day, while the maid was cleaning this beautiful glassware, she accidentally dropped one item and it smashed to pieces. Rav Yaakov’s wife became angry and she severely scolded the maid.

Rav Yaakov interrupted her and said, “It is my fault. I deserve this punishment for not heeding the advice of Chazal who warned us (Baba Metzia 19b) that he who wants to lose his money should invest it in glassware. Also, you have no right to shout at our maid. She is also a daughter of Avraham, Yitzachak and Yaakov, and as such she deserves respect. If you have any complaints, summon her to a beth din and demand payment for your loss.”

“That is a very good idea,” replied his wife. “I am going to summon her to a din Torah.”

Putting on her coat, she called to the maid and asked her to accompany her to the court. When Rav Yaakov saw them preparing to leave the house, he, too, took his coat and made ready to accompany them.

“You need not come with me,” said his wife. “It is not fitting for a prominent person like you to appear in court to argue against a maid.”

“It is not to help you that I am going to court,” replied Rav Yaackv, “but to represent the maid. You are wealthy and are the wife of a prominent rav, but what shall be the fate of this poor maid, who has no one to represent her? Our sages narrate a similar experience in the Midrash Bereishis (chap. 48) that when the wife of Rabi Yosai would scold her maid he would take the part of the maid, quoting the sentence in Iyov 31:13, ‘If I disregard the cause of my servant or maid when they argue with me, what shall I do when G-d arises and He takes me to task. What shall I answer Him?’”

Could Not Embarrass His Debtor

Once Rav Yaakov assigned one of his holdings, worth a few thousand rubles, to his daughter for her dowry. The holdings were in the custody of an agent who resided in Slutsk. The following year, word came to Rav Yaakov that his agent had made some very poor investments and he lost all of his money, including Rav Yaakov’s. The agent had then filed for bankruptcy.

The members of Rav Yaakov’s family began urging him to travel to Slutsk to investigate this matter, but Rav Yaakov refused, saying, “What difference would it make? If the rumor is false then my investment with him is secure, and if it is true then what can I accomplish by visiting him? If it’s lost, then I may as well forget about it.”

But when his wife and children persisted in urging him to go, he agreed. He traveled to Slutsk and after a while he returned home.

“Well, what did you find out in Slutsk?” his family eagerly asked him.

“It is bad news, indeed,” replied Rav Yaakov.

But the family was not satisfied. “Did he at least make any promises of repaying you?”

“I didn’t see him, so I wouldn’t know,” replied the pious rabbi.

His family looked on in amazement. “You traveled all the way to Slutsk and you didn’t see him?”

“Yes,” replied Rav Yaakov. “When I arrived in Slutsk I made inquiries about him and I was told it was true; the agent had gone into bankruptcy. I heard this from many people so I was convinced of its authenticity. So why should I have visited him and embarrassed him by a personal confrontation? The poor man suffered enough.”

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Title: From Generation to Generation: How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Family History

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2004

Title: From Generation to Generation: How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Family History
Author: Arthur Kurzweil
Publisher: Jossey-Bass, Wiley Books, San Francisco, CA


When a Jew becomes deathly ill, it has become the custom for that person to adopt a new name, for a name evokes great spirituality, and it is hoped that the goodness of the adopted name will bring relief. In his foreword to From Generation to Generation, Elie Wiesel notes that to Jews, names have deep significance, and that the entire Jewish history is replete with the history of the memory of names as well as memory of the history of names. Adam was the first master of nomenclature, and his descendents have been studying nomenclature and history ever since.


This is a valuable how-to book, benefiting from more than 35 years of genealogical research and study of one of America’s masters in this field. But the introduction and first chapter are
worthwhile in themselves.

Kurzweil relates the fascinating story of how his own quest began – his own search for meaning and his own thirst for knowledge of his forbears. Although he had previously never seen photos or documents of his grandparents, he now discovered them looking out at him from a book in the New York Public Library’s Jewish Division, in the 42nd Street library. He also found a map of the shtetl and more information than he could assimilate in short order, and thus began his mission.

His search encouraged much wanderings, including visits to libraries like those at Yad Vashem in Israel and YIVO in New York, as well as trips “home” to the Pale of Settlement (that part
of Poland that changed hands between Russia and Poland). He discovered that some of us have Jewish nobility running through our veins and are descendents from famous rabbis and prominent communal leaders.

And while some of our forbears may have been “horse thieves,” most of us are descended from artisans and traders, including blacksmiths, goldsmiths, wagon drivers, morticians and the like.

Kurzweil discovered cousins from previously unknown branches of his family – some from almost “around the corner;” others nearly halfway round the world in Europe and in Israel. Even some of his false leads assisted his efforts to help connect other families to previously lost loved ones, including, most famously, brothers, sisters and cousins who either didn’t even know of the other’s existence or hadn’t seen each other in decades.

There are many ways to do genealogical research and Kurzweil provides detailed instruction on how to do it; he supplies complete lists of resources, together with names, addresses, telephone numbers, Internet addresses and definitions. His brief section on the history of American immigration will help sort out the broad categories, and his instructions on how to glean information from even the headstones in cemeteries and from official documents (wills, death certificates, etc.) will save the novice a tremendous amount of time and help avoid false starts, dead ends and phony leads.

Interspersed with the material are many interesting and relevant quotations. Typical is: “If three consecutive generations are scholars, the Torah will not depart from that line. – Johanan B. Nappaha, Talmud, Baba Metzia, 85a.” These are indicative that this volume is not merely scholarly research but is a labor of love.

The author is the editor of the Judaica titles division of Wiley Books, and he annually compiles The Best Jewish Writing series that includes excerpts from the best writers of the day.

Aharon Ben Anshel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/title-from-generation-to-generation-how-to-trace-your-jewish-genealogy-and-family-history/2004/06/02/

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