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Mrs. Lander was buying fruit for Tu B’Shevat. Her local fruit store had designated a special section for Tu B’Shevat with a large sign: “Fruit of Israel.”

Mrs. Lander bought a box of dates with Hebrew and English writing on it. They were more expensive than the box of California dates on a nearby shelf, but she preferred Israeli produce for Tu B’Shevat.


When she got home, she started arranging the dates on a fruit platter and noticed that written in small letters on the back of the box were the words: “Product of Egypt.”

Mrs. Lander was furious. “The last thing I want is to eat Egyptian dates for Tu B’Shevat!” she exclaimed. She brought the half-used box back to the store the following day and demanded a refund.

The store owner refused, arguing that she opened the box and that his store sign, “Fruit of Israel,” simply meant that the fruits were of the sheva minim. Rabbi Dayan happened to be in the store so the storeowner and Mrs. Lander turned to him to make a decision.

Rabbi Dayan said, “The Terumas Hadeshen [#332], cited by the Rema, derives from the Gemara [Beitzah 7a] that if someone asked to buy meat from an animal that was raised a certain way, which is supposed to be tastier, but was sold meat from a regular animal, the sale is not considered ‘mistaken’ – a mekach ta’us – unless the customer is known to be particular to buy only the more delectable meat [Rema, Choshen Mishpat 233:1].

“The sale is valid since the food is essentially of the same type, and most people are not particular how an animal is raised. The seller does, however, have to return to the customer any differential in cost between the two meats, even if it’s less than a sixth [Pischei Teshuvah, Choshen Mishpat 233:1].

“Many Acharonim, though, question or reject the Rema’s ruling and compare this case to that of a person who asked to buy high-quality produce and was sold poor-quality produce instead; that’s a mekach ta’us [Bach 233:1; Nesivos 233:3; Aruch HaShulchan, Choshen Mishpat 233:4; Pischei Choshen, Geneivah 12:30].

“Most people are not particular to buy only fruit from Israel for Tu B’Shevat, so according to the Rema, the sale is valid and the seller only has to return any differential in price. Even the above mentioned Acharonim might agree since Mrs. Lander didn’t specifically ask for Israeli produce. However, if it’s clear that she was particular to buy only Israeli fruit, it would be considered a mekach ta’us.

“The truth is that Mrs. Lander could have checked the package despite the large sign in the store. Some authorities maintain regarding defective merchandise that if the customer could easily have seen the defect before buying the product, but didn’t bother checking, he no longer has a claim [Sma 232:10; Pischei Teshuvah 232:1].

“I should note,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “that it’s prohibited to mislead people with false advertising even if there is no differential in price” [Choshen Mishpat 228:6; Sma 228:7].


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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 [email protected]. 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 [email protected].