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Shabbat Parashat Miketz 5775

P'ninat Mishpat: Sellers from Outside Town at Market Day

(based on Shoel Umeishiv II:III:21)

Case: A merchant from Zemigrad rented a booth at the weekly market day in Riminov and would bring merchandise there to sell. The Jewish merchants of Riminov complained of hasagat g’vul (unacceptable competition). The Rabbi of Zemigrad wrote a letter justifying his townsman based on the gemara (Bava Batra 22a) that says that people from outside a town may sell on a shuk day because these days attract extra buyers, which makes it appropriate for there to be extra sellers. The Rabbi of Riminov cited a responsa in Shoel U’meishiv (I:I:41), in which Rav Nathanson distinguished between a big shuk day, in which people come from all over the region, and a weekly market day (as in this case), which is made for the local populace of buyers and sellers. The Rabbi of Riminov countered that since that ruling cited the Bach, that the restrictions of hasagat g’vul do not apply even to a weekly market day, one cannot apply the restrictions on free commerce out of the doubt raised by the machloket. The Rabbi of Riminov asked Rav Nathanson to comment on the matter.

 

Ruling: I already argued clearly with my ancestor, the Bach, and demonstrated that one cannot prove from the Mordechai that a shuk is a less expansive market event than a yerid, and I brought strong proofs from Shas to the contrary. Therefore, only in for a major market event, where people come from all over to buy and sell, may a seller come from out of town. In cases like in Riminov, where out-of-town buyers will not come even if we increase the number of sellers, we apply the regular rule that people from outside the city may not take away the livelihood of the locals.

The Rabbi of Zemigrad cited the Mabit, who said that anyone who is under the same government is considered one who pays the karga (tax), who is not bound by the rules of hasagat g’vul (Bava Batra 21b). However, the Nachalat Shiva and several sources you (the Rabbi of Riminov) correctly brought reject the Mabit’s approach.

The Rabbi of Zemigrad’s stronger point is that we should be lenient on the visiting merchant out of doubt due to differing opinions. It is true that regarding the question which the gemara leaves unsolved, whether members of one section of town can prevent the competition from residents of another section of town, the gemara leaves the question unsolved (teiku) and the poskim say we therefore allow the competition.

However, the Ra’avan and others ask why in a case of money we are “lenient” with one party even though it is at the expense of another, and the former is in danger of violating theft. Certain cases deal with acts of unclear damage, in which case out of doubt we do not need to apply restrictions on possible minor infractions. Sometimes, one side is not taking something from the other, but only withholding profit opportunities from him. My other ancestor, the Rama, was stringent regarding putting a store at the entrance to a one-way street when an existing business of the same type is further down the street. People wondered how he could be stringent on that open question. The answer is that a matter of definite loss is involved there, in which case the logic to not intervene does not apply. In our case, as well, we view the merchant from Zemigrad as arguably stealing (i.e., causing direct loss) from the people of Riminov, whereas the people of Riminov are only withholding an opportunity from him. Therefore the benefit of the doubt goes in favor of the merchants of Riminov. 
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