Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Bava Batra 94: Dirt with the Produce: is it Intentional?

A certain amount of dirt should be expected when one purchases produce.  The Gemara outlines reasonable amounts of dirt that might be found surrounding different types of produce.  But perhaps the dirt is not there incidentally; perhaps the seller placed more than the expected amount of dirt to the container of produce assuming that the buyer would not notice the difference and thus pay more money for less produce.

Some people sift their produce to measure how much dirt was included in the sale.  If more than the acceptable amount of dirt was found, one could bring all of the dirt back to the seller for compensation.  One of the understandings about this practice is halachic: when a person buys produce, s/he does not intend to buy dirt.  Thus s/he is expected to sift all purchased produce and the seller is required to take back the impurities.  

The other understanding is that this 'payback' is a penalty given to the seller.  In this interpretation, anything beyond the acceptable amount of impurities is suspected to have been placed intentionally by the seller.  Thus all of the impurities are reimbursed, even those which might have been acceptable.  

The Gemara notes that there is concern about diverse kinds.  If a seller sorts without thought, s/he could sell diverse kinds which might then be planted together.  Some rabbis take this prohibition very seriously.  Others assume that undesirable seeds will be picked out.  

In further arguments regarding diverse kinds, the rabbis tell the story of two people who leave money with another person.  One leaves 100 dinars and the other leaves 200 dinars.  They return and both claim that they left 200 dinars.  They walk through a number of solutions, including leaving the deposits in the safe until Elijah comes with the truth.  This story is said to help us understand the case of a person who is unsure about the integrity of his/her purchase of produce.  A dispute is raised: these stories are not analogous.  Instead, we know that there is a swindler in the case of the dinars.  In the case of the produce, it is possible that no-one has been dishonest.

At the very end of our daf, another case is introduced as a possible analogy.  This case concerns the sale of land.

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