Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Bernie was one of the best athletes in camp, perhaps the best, but also a bully. He was chosen to play in the much-anticipated all-star game during the last week of camp

It was the ninth inning and Bernie’s team was down by three runs. The bases were loaded and Bernie came up to bat. His team hoped for a home run by Bernie that would win the game. Sure enough, Bernie drove the ball into deep center field. He raced around the bases and crossed home plate, greeted wildly by his team.


Bernie decided he wanted to hang the bat that won the game in his room. “I’d like to buy the bat from you,” he told Hillel, who owned the bat. “I’ll pay you whatever it costs to buy a new one.”

“I’m not interested in selling,” said Hillel. “I received it as a birthday present and I’m comfortable with its swing.”

Bernie tried to convince him, but Hillel refused.

During the remaining days, Bernie began to pick on Hillel. It started with undoing his bed and messing his cubby, and continued with roughing up and punching. The last day of camp, Bernie threw Hillel on the floor and made his position clear: “Either you sell me the bat, or you’ll find it broken in the morning.”

Hillel felt the counselors and camp administration did not have sufficient authority to deal with Bernie. Reluctantly, he agreed to sell the bat to Bernie for $200.

When Hillel returned home, he related to his parents what happened with Bernie. “Speak to Rabbi Dayan,” they suggested. “Ask how you can void the sale and get your bat back.”

“Bernie forced me to sell my bat by hurting me and threatening to break it,” Hillel said to Rabbi Dayan. “Can I void the sale?”

Bernie violated ‘lo sachmod ­– do not covet’ in forcing the sale,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Nonetheless, the Gemara [B.B. 48a] teaches that if someone was forced to sell an item and he agreed to the sale, the sale is valid. Halacha differs in this from most civil law, which considers a sale made under duress voidable.” (C.M. 359:1; 205:1)

“What is the logic of this halacha?” asked Hillel.

“The Gemara and commentaries explain that since the owner receives full payment and wants to relieve himself of the duress, he has the required intent – gemirus da’as – for the sale,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “Agreement, albeit through force, is agreement.”

“What if the owner did not receive full value?” asked Hillel. “And what if I were forced to give the bat for free?”

“Only if the owner receives proper compensation is a transaction under duress valid,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Therefore, a gift given under duress can be voided by bringing proof of the duress. Similarly, if the owner was forced to sell the item for a price less than its value, he can void the sale.” (C.M. 205:4)

“Is there any halachic recourse for one who is being forced?” asked Hillel.

“There is,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “If the owner provided notice to witnesses before executing the transaction that he is doing so under duress and the duress is verified, he can void the transaction later. In this way he demonstrates that he did not come to terms with the sale.” (C.M. 205:5-7)

“What if the owner was forced to sell because of financial need, etc.?” asked Hillel.

“Only duress by others can possibly void the sale,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “However, where the duress was from the seller himself, he cannot void the sale, even if he provided notice.” (C.M. 205:12)


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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 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