כ״ד באייר ה׳תשע״ה (May 13, 2015)

Ketubot 100a-b: Selling at the Market

When a man dies and leaves an estate, and his heirs are not old enough to take charge of the financial affairs, it is the responsibility of the courts to step in and ensure that the value of the property is preserved. Thus, Rav Yehuda quotes Shmuel as teaching that metaltelin – moveable property (as opposed to real estate) – should be evaluated and sold immediately so that it will not deteriorate and lose value. Rav Ḥisda is quoted as saying that it should be sold in the market. The Gemara explains that there is really no disagreement. Shmuel’s ruling is when the market is far, while Rav Ḥisda is talking about when the market is close.

Rashi explains that the reference to the market means that it should be sold on the market day, and when the Gemara rules that we distinguish between a close market and a far-away market, the question is one of time – will the market day be taking place sooner or later? The Rambam understands that it is a question of distance, and the Gemara is distinguishing between a close-by market and a market that is far away.

To illustrate this rule, the Gemara tells of amoraim who had been appointed as guardians to look after the property of orphans. Rav Kahana, for example, chose to wait to sell the alcoholic beverages that were part of Rav Mesharshiyya’s estate, arguing that if he waited for the holidays, even though the drinks would deteriorate somewhat – nafal beh itzatzta – nevertheless he anticipated being able to get a better price because of the many people who would be purchasing such drinks.

Rashi interprets itzatzta as oxidation, and understands that the concern was a lessening of the quality of the beverage, which would be made up by the rising prices. To this day, cheaper wines have a tendency to develop a sour taste, and over time the chemical process will turn the wine into vinegar.

Rabbeinu Gershom, quoted in the Arukh, takes an entirely different approach, suggesting that the word itzatzta, or, as he has it, utza, means a monetary loss. He explains that Rav Kahana recognized that at the holiday season there would be a greater supply of alcoholic beverages available, and prices would drop. Nevertheless, the availability of other items to purchase at a discount made it worthwhile to wait until that time.

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