Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Delineating a Field

By: Reb Yechezkel Khayyat

The Mishna discusses a case of one who delineates the field he is selling. By delineating the field, we allow more leeway in an error in the field’s size.

The Rashbam and Tur (quoting the Rema) say that the same is true if the seller showed the field to the buyer, and told him that he was selling “this field.” However, the Ri Migash says that showing an actual field is equivalent to the earlier case of hen chaser hen yeser (more or less), and does not have the same leeway as our Mishna.

The limit of the error accepted in such a sale is a sixth of the specified size. The Rashbam explains that although this amount is the same as the proportion for ona’ah (over or under charging), the mechanism is different. The limit in the case of a delineated field is simply a measure of how far away from the specified size a buyer will forgive, while the limit in ona’ah is defined by the variation accepted in a marketplace.

Beyond a sixth, the Mishna says that the price must be adjusted. The Rosh and Ran say that the adjustment is for the whole error. The Kesef Mishnah (Mechirah 28:12) holds that the Rambam agrees, while the Magid Mishnah suggests that the Rambam may only obligate a reduction in price to bring it to within a sixth of the specified size.

Exactly a Sixth

The Gemora cites the dispute of Rav Huna and Rav Yehudah in the case of an error of exactly a sixth of the size, with Rav Huna placing it together with less than a sixth, and Rav Yehudah placing it together with more than a sixth.

The Rishonim discuss different versions of the text of the Mishna, and how they are read according to Rav Huna and Rav Yehudah.

The Mishna rules on two cases:
1. pachos mishtos (less than a sixth): valid sale
2. Until shtos price must be adjusted

The versions of the first case are:
1. pachos shtos = a sixth less [than the size] (Tosfos 106a Hachi)
2. pachos mishtos = less than a sixth [away from the size] (Tosfos ibid)
3. piches shtos = [if he] reduced [the size] by a sixth (Bach note 3)
4. piches mishtos = [if he] reduced [the size] by less than a sixth (Bach note 1)

According to the first and third versions, this case seems to read simply like Rav Huna. In fact, this is a weakness with these versions, since Rav Huna proceeds to explain how to read this first case in accordance with his ruling. Rav Yehudah has to read this case, “[up to] a sixth less.” According to the second and fourth versions, the Mishna does not explicitly discuss the case of a sixth, leading to the dispute.

The second case of the Mishna discusses the rule ad - until a shtos. Here, Rav Yehudah and Rav Huna dispute whether this ad - until is inclusive or exclusive.

Tosfos explains that Rav Yehudah can explain that the Mishna did not explicitly discuss a sixth in the second case, lest we think that more than a sixth would invalidate the sale. According to Rav Huna, the Mishna did not explicitly discuss a sixth in the first case, to indicate that a sixth is a valid sale, just as much as less than a sixth is.

A Silver Goblet Raffled a few Times on Purim

By: Meoros Hadaf Hayomi

Our sugya explains that the heirs to a commonly inherited estate may divide it by lots and, according to Rav Ashi, the halachic validity of the lottery is based on the heirs’ consensus to divide the estate by that means. We bring you a story about a Purim raffle held somewhere in Germany about 325 years ago, next-door to HaGaon Rav Yair Bachrach, author of Responsa Chavos Yair.

A dozen exuberant friends and relatives were having their Purim banquet at the same table. Somewhat inebriated, they decided to raffle an expensive silver goblet with each paying a participation fee. Each of their names was written on a separate slip and put in a box while another box held 12 more slips – 11 blank and one announcing mazal tov! The word was given and a child was picked to take out a slip with a name from the first box and another slip from the second. On the first try, the slip from the second box was blank but already on the second try, the slip from the second box said mazal tov and the happy winner was handed his prize. Some people, though, wondered how anyone could win so soon and decided to examine all the slips. They then found another mazal tov slip in the second box and an argument soon erupted. The winner claimed that his luck caused him to win and had there been merely one such slip, he would also have won while the other participants insisted that the whole raffle was invalid as the original conditions of 11 blank slips and one mazal tov had not been met. All the participants went to Rav Bachrach’s home and the Gaon instructed them to conduct the raffle anew.

This time, someone else won but the situation was just as confusing. One of the participants examined all the slips in the box of names and discovered one missing. They all wanted to invalidate the raffle but the winner asserted that as there had been just 11 names in the box, each of the 11 had had a greater chance to win so what are they complaining about? “The only one I should confront,” he retorted, “is the twelfth, whose name was missing, and I’m willing to compromise and give him a third of the goblet’s worth.” The group again came to Rav Bachrach who ruled that even if the twelfth person would agree to the compromise, the others could invalidate the raffle (Responsa, 61).

He found a source for his decision in our sugya: Two brothers divided three fields of equal size by drawing lots. Reuven got field A and Shimon field B and they then divided field C equally between them. They then discovered another brother, Levi, whom they had never known and the three drew lots anew for the entire estate while Levi won field C! In Tosfos’ opinion (s.v. Ushmuel), Rav and Shmuel disagreed if a new lottery should be conducted or if Reuven and Shimon could keep their originally won fields and just give field C to Levi without drawing lots. The halachah was ruled according to Rav invalidating the first lottery entirely and we thus deduce that a lottery or raffle somehow excluding a participant who should have been included is invalid.

Basic Conditions for the Results of a Raffle to be Binding

According to the Chavos Yair, the reason for the above halachah is that the results of a lottery must be determined strictly by Hashem without human machinations or errors. Divine providence works its effect only when a lottery or raffle is conducted properly. If, then, even 13 slips had been put in the name box, with someone’s name appearing twice, and even had that person not won despite his greater chances, the other participants could invalidate the raffle as a raffle not conducted according to the rules has no validity.

This novel opinion, that even someone whose name was recorded twice could invalidate a raffle, was supported in a wonderfully simple explanation by HaGaon Maharil (Reb Yehoshua Leib) Diskin zt”l in his commentary on the Torah (Miketz). The twice-inscribed person could claim that he paid to participate in the raffle, assuming he had a chance to win. Had he won, though, the other participants could invalidate the proceedings, being that his name was recorded twice and thus giving him a greater chance to win. This very possibility, then, invalidates his participation retroactively since he had no chance of winning. Moreover, he could further claim that Divine providence wants him to win but his name did not appear for even had he won, the others would invalidate his winning anyway; he is therefore allowed to invalidate the whole procedure.

The Winner of the Lottery Gets the Aliyah

In a certain congregation in Eretz Yisroel, the members decided that, for the sake of good order, the Shabbos when a bar mitzvah boy would be called to maftir should be determined a year in advance. One day, a congregant came to the gabai and informed him that his son would be bar mitzvah and receive maftir the coming Shabbos. He already sent invitations, he asserted, and the desired aliyah laTorah was even mentioned therein. The gabai protested that that Shabbos was reserved for another bar mitzvah boy whose father obeyed the regulations and had advised the congregation a year ago. The question was referred to HaGaon Y.S. Elyashiv, who ruled that the son had no reason to suffer because of his father’s negligence and that the boys should draw lots for their aliyah (Tuvecha Yabi’u, II, p. 68).