Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Rabbi Dayan reviewed the article he had recently written about Dov, who threw Kalman’s collection of manufacturer’s coupons down the incinerator (our Dec. 23 column). In principle, Dov is liable for the damage, which is evaluated as the current actuarial market value of the aggregate coupon collection based on the desirability of the products, the savings relative to the price of the products, the availability of the coupons, expiration dates, etc.

However, Rabbi Dayan pondered a remaining question. The redemption terms of almost all manufacturers’ coupons state: “Coupons are non-assignable and are void if transferred from their original recipient to any other person.” Thus, coupons cannot be sold and have no legal market value!


“Is there value to something that cannot be sold?” Dov had asked.

“Your question involves a fascinating discussion in the achronim,” Rabbi Dayan replied. “Consider the following case: Kalman vowed to offer a burnt-offering [olah] in the Temple and chose an animal for fulfillment of his vow. You stole the animal. Kalman could not have sold the animal to anyone, but now must set aside another animal to fulfill his vow. Must you pay him the value of his animal?”

“Interesting question,” said Dov. “I have no idea.”

“This is called davar hagorem l’mamon – something that has monetary ramifications,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “R. Shimon obligates, whereas the sages exempt. Tosfos [B.K. 71b s.v. v’savar] write in their first explanation that the sages do not obligate since the animal has value only to its owner and not to the rest of the world.”

“Similarly, Nesivos [148:1] writes that one who damages something for which the owner cannot receive money is exempt,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “Based on this, one could argue that you are not liable for Kalman’s coupons, since it is illegal to sell them. However, Shach [C.M. 386:1] rejects this explanation and sides with their other answers of Tosfos, since ultimately damage was caused to this person.”

“Consider also this case,” continued Rabbi Dayan. “Kalman has a passport, for which he paid a $110 renewal fee. If you destroy his passport, must you pay its cost, even though it has no market value to others?”

“I would assume so,” replied Dov.

“The Shoel U’meishiv [1:31] holds you liable,” said Rabbi Dayan, “but the Beis Yitzchak [EH vol. I 73:9] writes that the passport is not considered an item of actual value since it’s worthless to others.”

“What if you destroyed an amulet written for a specific person?” asked Rabbi Dayan.

“I guess it’s all the same question,” replied Dov.

Minchat Pittim [C.M. 340:4] suggests that according to Tosfos’s first answer you would be exempt since it has no sale value to others,” said Rabbi Dayan, “but according the Shach you are liable.”

“So what’s the bottom line?” asked Dov. “Am I liable for Kalman’s coupons?”

“The accepted ruling is in accordance with the Shach, against the Nesivos,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “Therefore, you are liable for the coupons. There is also another distinguishing factor to consider. In all the above cases, the item is inherently of value only to one person. However, the coupons are inherently of value to anyone in the world, even though there are legal limitations about transferring them. Thus, everyone could agree that you are liable. We can compare the coupon to a check payable only the payee. While it cannot be sold, it is of great inherent value to the owner, not just of monetary ramifications.”

Rabbi Dayan concluded: “Therefore, you are liable for incinerating Kalman’s coupons. Nonetheless, since they are not saleable, we would not evaluate them based on the general market but rather on Kalman himself: How much cash he would be willing to pay to receive such a collection of coupons if it were legal to do so.”

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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].