Oh My, It’s Copper!
‘…And One Who Is a Coppersmith’
Our Mishna includes a metzaref nechoshes (refiner of copper) as one of the categories of husbands that the beis din, upon the request of a wife, would pressure into granting her a divorce. The Gemara asks: What is a metzaref? Is it one who pounds out copper kettles, as Rav Ashi maintains, or is it one who mines copper from the earth, according to the opinion of Rabbah bar Chanah? The Gemara cites a baraisa that taught this issue according to Rabbah bar Chanah: A metzaref is one who mines copper.
Our Daf discusses the metzaref in terms of the occupation and not the product. Some time back, the product, i.e. a copper ring, became the focus of halachic attention. It involves the value of the object (Kiddushin 7b). A ring was used by an observant individual to consecrate a marriage. The matter turns on whether the ring needed to be gold – as it seemed to be – or is the ring’s inherent value more than a perutah (corresponding to our copper penny) sufficient once the wife accepts it.
For kiddushin to be valid, the value of the item must be worth at least a perutah. If a man gives a silk garment to a woman for kiddushin, the man may readily admit to her that he does not know the garment’s exact value, and that only an expert is capable of appraising its true worth. The ruling is that as long as she agrees to accept it as a token of kiddushin, then even if the appraisal later shows it is worth only a perutah, which is much less than it appeared to be worth, the kiddushin is valid.
Recently, an unusual case was brought before Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the senior posek in Jerusalem. A man took his wife’s wedding ring to a jeweler for repair. The jeweler examined the ring and asked the man in amazement, “Is this your wedding ring? Wedding rings should be made of gold. Your ring is copper!”
Questioning The Sale
As far as the wife was concerned, there was no problem. The custom is that the officiating rabbi tells the woman, under the chuppah, that she should be prepared to accept the ring for the sake of kiddushin even if it is worth only a perutah. Though at the time she may have thought that she had received a gold ring and not one made of copper, the ring was worth at least a perutah. However, from the husband’s point of view, he was concerned that the ring may never have been legally his in order to effectuate kiddushin with it. This concern is based on the halacha that if someone sells gold and it turns out to be copper, the sale is invalid and either party may cancel the transaction retroactively. If so, the husband never really completely owned the ring to give to his wife under the chuppah, since that ownership could be challenged and reversed by the merchant.
Rabbi Elyashiv rules (see Beth David, Zichron Tuvia p. 249) that the husband’s fear was groundless, for even if the original sale of the ring had been invalid, it was because the jeweler was dishonest, in which case the jeweler owes the husband a refund. Until the refund is made, the husband has the halachic status of someone who lent money (i.e., what he paid for the ring) and the copper ring is considered a mashkon, collateral, in the hands of the husband. A mashkon of this nature is not like regular collateral that is deposited as security when a loan is given. Rather, this mashkon is like collateral that a lender seizes for non-payment of a loan. After the seizure, the loan is partially paid, with a balance still owed to the husband. Therefore the ring, which represents partial payment of the loan, definitely became the property of the husband and the kiddushin was certainly valid.