Monday, 10 September 2007

Rabbinic System vs. Ethical Integrity

Originally published 9/10/07, 6:00 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.
This Post is forwarded with Permission from the author -RRW
[nb: Daniel Eidensohn is author of the Yad Mose Index of Igros Moshe]

Kesiva vaChasima Tova,
Best Wishes for 5768,

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Daniel Eidensohn
Date: Sep 10, 2007 1:26 AM

There is a dispute in the fourth perek of Bava Metzia between R' Yochanon and Reish Lakish concerning aquisition of objects with money. R' Yochanon holds that money is a doreissa technique but it was invalidated rabbinically to ensure that the merchandise being purchased would be protected until taken by the purchaser. On BM 47b the gemora tries to refute Reish Lakish who does not accept money as a doreissa technique. It argues that it only makes sense that beis din should curse someone retracting from a deal involving money - which is good on a doreissa level - but is only invalid on a rabbinic level. The curse makes sense because it prevents people from taking advantage of the rabbinic invalidation of kinyan with money. On the other hand the gemora initially states that it doesn't make sense to curse someone just because he doesn't keep his word.

The conclusion of the gemora which is brought in Rambam and Shulchan Aruch is that the mi shepora curse only applies in cases where there was some transfer of money. Where there was only a verbal agreement then there is no mi shepora but only a statement that the chochomim are not happy with someone who breaks his word.

Question: Does that mean that -
1) Preventing people from taking advantage of a rabbinic ordinance is of greater importance than the mere ethical consideration of keeping one's word and that's why a curse is used to protect the rabbinic system but not to prevent breaking promises?


2) Does it mean that keeping your word is so obviously important that it just needs the awareness of our Sages disapproval of breaking commitments. On the other hand preserving rabbinic improvements to the system is not so obvious a value so it requires a curse to arouse
awareness of its importance?

Daniel Eidensohn

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