Din & Daf: Conceptual Analysis of Halakha Through Case Study with Dr. Elana Stein Hain
תליוהו וזבין (בבא קמא סב.) Forced Transactions in Jewish Law
Should a transaction that has been coerced be considered valid by Jewish law? Should the law care about the internal feelings or misgivings of someone who is being forced into making a sale or giving a sacrifice or even giving a writ of divorce? Why or why not?
Available as a podcast or video shiur:
- בבא קמא סב.
אֲמַר לֵיהּ רַב אַדָּא בְּרֵיהּ דְּרַב אַוְיָא לְרַב אָשֵׁי: מָה בֵּין גַּזְלָן לְחַמְסָן? אֲמַר לֵיהּ: חַמְסָן – יָהֵיב דְּמֵי, גַּזְלָן – לָא יָהֵיב דְּמֵי.
Rav Adda, son of Rav Avya, said to Rav Ashi: Concerning two terms used to describe those who take another’s property against his will, a gazlan and a ḥamsan, what is the difference between them? Rav Ashi said to him: A ḥamsan gives money for what they take from its owner, albeit against the owner’s will, whereas a gazlan does not give money.
אֲמַר לֵיהּ: אִי יָהֵיב דְּמֵי – חַמְסָן קָרֵית לֵיהּ?! וְהָאָמַר רַב הוּנָא: תְּלוּהּ וְזַבֵּין – זְבִינֵיהּ זְבִינֵי! לָא קַשְׁיָא, הָא דְּאָמַר ״רוֹצֶה אֲנִי״, הָא דְּלָא אָמַר ״רוֹצֶה אֲנִי״.
Rav Adda said to him: If one gives money, do you still call them a ḥamsan? Doesn’t Rav Huna say: If one was strung up so that another could coerce them to sell a certain item, the sale is valid? Rav Ashi answered: This is not difficult: where the seller says, “I want to,” the buyer is not a ḥamsan, but where the seller does not say this, the buyer is still a ḥamsan despite having given money.
- ויקרא א:ג
אִם־עֹלָ֤ה קׇרְבָּנוֹ֙ מִן־הַבָּקָ֔ר זָכָ֥ר תָּמִ֖ים יַקְרִיבֶ֑נּוּ אֶל־פֶּ֜תַח אֹ֤הֶל מוֹעֵד֙ יַקְרִ֣יב אֹת֔וֹ לִרְצֹנ֖וֹ לִפְנֵ֥י ה’׃
If one’s offering is a burnt offering from the herd, one shall make their offering a male without blemish. One shall bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, for their acceptance before God.
- ספרא, ויקרא דבורא דנדבה, פרשה ג ט״ו
…”יקריב אותו” – מלמד שכופין אותו; יכול על כרחו? תלמוד לומר “לרצונו”. כיצד? כופין אותו עד שיאמר “רוצה אני!”
“One shall bring it” – teaches that we can coerce the person; possibly against their will? Therefore, the verse follows with “for their acceptance” (meaning here, “by their own will”). How so? We force the person until the person says, “I want to (offer this sacrifice).”
- משנה ערכין ה:ו
חַיָּבֵי עֲרָכִים, מְמַשְׁכְּנִין אוֹתָן. חַיָּבֵי חַטָּאוֹת וַאֲשָׁמוֹת, אֵין מְמַשְׁכְּנִין אוֹתָן.
With regard to those obligated to pay valuations, the court repossesses their property to pay their debt to the Temple treasury. With regard to those obligated to bring sin offerings and guilt offerings, the court does not repossess their property.
(The חטאת that a nazir/nezira offers at the end of their nezirut is an exception to this rule, as it does not bring expiation, and the nazir/nezira may return to drinking wine without it.)
חַיָּבֵי עוֹלוֹת וּשְׁלָמִים, מְמַשְׁכְּנִין אוֹתָן
But with regard to those obligated to bring burnt offerings and peace offerings, the court repossesses their property.
(The עולה that a metzora gives is an exception to this rule, as the מצורע.ת needs to give this korban in order to become ritually pure.)
אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין מִתְכַּפֵּר לוֹ עַד שֶׁיִּתְרַצֶּה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא א), לִרְצוֹנוֹ, כּוֹפִין אוֹתוֹ עַד שֶׁיֹּאמַר, רוֹצֶה אָנִי.
Although does not achieve atonement until one brings the offering of their own volition, as it is stated: “One shall bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting of their volition” (Leviticus 1:3), nevertheless the court coerces the person until they say: I want to do so.
וְכֵן אַתָּה אוֹמֵר בְּגִטֵּי נָשִׁים, כּוֹפִין אוֹתוֹ עַד שֶׁיֹּאמַר, רוֹצֶה אָנִי:
And likewise regarding women’s bills of divorce. Although one divorces his wife only of his own volition, in any case where the Sages obligated a husband to divorce his wife the court coerces him until he says: I want to do so.
- בבא בתרא מז:-מח.
אָמַר רַב הוּנָא: תַּלְיוּהוּ וְזַבֵּין – זְבִינֵיהּ זְבִינֵי. מַאי טַעְמָא? כֹּל דִּמְזַבֵּין אִינִישׁ, אִי לָאו דַּאֲנִיס – לָא הֲוָה מְזַבֵּין, וַאֲפִילּוּ הָכִי זְבִינֵיהּ זְבִינֵי. וְדִילְמָא שָׁאנֵי אוּנְסָא דְנַפְשֵׁיהּ מֵאוּנְסָא דְאַחֲרִינֵי!
Rav Huna says: If one was suspended, e.g., from a tree, and thereby coerced to sell a certain item, and sold it, their sale is valid. Why? Because one would never sell anything if not for the need for money, and yet the sale is valid. But perhaps duress that results from one’s own needs is different from duress brought about by another person?!
אֶלָּא כִּדְתַנְיָא: ״יַקְרִיב אֹתוֹ״ – מְלַמֵּד שֶׁכּוֹפִין אוֹתוֹ. יָכוֹל בְּעַל כׇּרְחוֹ? תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר: ״לִרְצוֹנוֹ״. הָא כֵּיצַד? כּוֹפִין אוֹתוֹ עַד שֶׁיֹּאמַר: ״רוֹצֶה אֲנִי״.
Rather, the basis for Rav Huna’s ruling is as it is taught in a baraita: “one shall bring it” (Vayikra/Leviticus 1:3). “One shall bring it” – teaches that we can coerce the person; possibly against their will? Therefore, the verse follows with “for their acceptance” (meaning here, “by their own will”). How so? We force the person until the person says, “I want to (offer this sacrifice).”
וְדִלְמָא שָׁאנֵי הָתָם, דְּנִיחָא לֵיהּ דְּתִיהְוֵי לֵיהּ כַּפָּרָה! וְאֶלָּא מִסֵּיפָא: וְכֵן אַתָּה אוֹמֵר בְּגִיטֵּי נָשִׁים – כּוֹפִין אוֹתוֹ עַד שֶׁיֹּאמַר: ״רוֹצֶה אֲנִי״.
But perhaps there it is different, since one is amenable to achieving atonement. Rather, prove Rav Huna’s ruling from the latter clause of a mishnah (Arakhin 21a): And similarly you find this law with bills of divorce, that when the court rules that a man must divorce his wife, they coerce him until he says: I want to divorce my wife.
וְדִלְמָא שָׁאנֵי הָתָם, דְּמִצְוָה לִשְׁמוֹעַ דִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים! אֶלָּא סְבָרָא הוּא – אַגַּב אוּנְסֵיהּ גָּמַר וּמַקְנֵה
But perhaps there it is different, because it is a mitzvah to listen to the statement of the Sages. Rather, (Rav Huna’s ruling) is based on logical reasoning: By means of being coerced, the seller willingly decides to sell the field and transfers it.
- רשב”ם בבא בתרא מח.
אלא – רב הונא מסברא דידיה קאמר דמתוך יסורים גמר בלבו ומקני הואיל ואיכא תרתי יסורים ומתן מעות דלא מפסיד מידי:
Rather – Rav Huna said this of his own logic: that because of the pain, he had conviction in his heart and transferred the item. Because there are two factors – pain and the giving of money, so that the seller does not lose anything.
Dr. Elana Stein Hain is the Rosh Beit Midrash and a senior research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Passionate about bringing Torah into conversation with contemporary life, she teaches Talmud from the Balcony, an occasional learning seminar exposing the big ideas, questions, and issues motivating Talmudic discussions; she authored Circumventing the Law: Rabbinic Perspectives on Legal Loopholes and Integrity (pre-order discount code: PENN-ESHAIN30) which uses halakhic loopholes as a lens for understanding rabbinic views on law and ethics; and she co-hosts For Heaven’s Sake, a bi-weekly podcast with Donniel Hartman and Yossi Klein Halevi, exploring contemporary issues related to Israel and the Jewish world. In mid-January, Elana will be starting a new podcast called TEXTing, where she and guest scholars study Torah texts that engage issues of the moment for the Jewish world. She lives in Manhattan with her beloved family.
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