Daf Yomi

For the week ending 7 November 2009 / 19 Heshvan 5770

Bava Basra 79 - 85

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

A Question of Quality

The Case: Reuven contracts to sell Shimon good quality wheat. When it arrives, Shimon discovers that he has received poor quality wheat.
The Scenarios: 1) Shimon wants to back out of the deal and Reuven wants to hold him to it. 2) Reuven learns that the price of wheat has suddenly shot up and he wishes to back out of the deal so that he can sell at a higher price, but Shimon insists on the sale being final.
The Rule: Shimon may back out because he has been deceived. Reuven cannot back out because he is the victim of market circumstances, not deception. Should the reverse have taken place - Reuven contracts to sell poor quality wheat and Shimon receives good quality - then the reverse will be the rule: Reuven can back out because he is the victim of deception but Shimon cannot back out even if a sudden drop in the price of wheat makes it worthwhile for him to do so.
The Problem: The rule is that if Reuven contracts to sell red wheat to Shimon and it turns out to be white wheat either of them has the right to back out and demand his money back. Why is backing out only a unilateral privilege when quality is the issue and bilateral when it comes to two kinds of wheat?
The Resolution: In regard to quality it is assumed that everyone prefers good quality to poor. When Shimon ordered a good quality and received a poor one he is considered as having been deceived and can nullify the deal. Reuven, on the other hand, was interested in retaining his better quality grain and passing off the poor quality to Shimon. Since he achieved this with his delivery he cannot invalidate the deal. But in regard to two different varieties of grain, some people prefer red and others white. When Reuven and Shimon contract for the sale of red wheat, each of them may subsequently claim that he was not interested in the way the sale turned out - Reuven because he wanted to dispose of red wheat, not white, and Shimon because he wanted to acquire red wheat, not white.
  • Bava Basra 83b

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