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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo| 5763
Levels of Obligation - Part 1
As the Yamim Noraim approach, we look for ways to improve our standing before the Divine Judge. We are told that he who goes beyond his obligations in dealing with his fellow man receives similarly beneficial treatment from Above (see Rosh Hashana 17a). In this light, we thought it was appropriate to discuss different levels of extra-judicial obligations and their terminology.
One type of semi-obligation, which cannot be enforced by beit din, refers to assurances a person gave in a manner that there was no binding kinyan. Kinyanim must, as a rule, include some form of physical action in order for them to be binding. However, we pasken like Rav Yochanan that a clear oral commitment to buy or sell creates a situation where he who backs out, is considered mechusar amana, lacking in reliability (Bava Metzia 49a). If money was paid and a party wants to back out, with the excuse that Chazal required a physical act to buy movable objects, then a form of curse, known as a mi shepara, is administered.
Another term for moral obligation is taromet (grievances). The gemara exerts much effort in trying to determine the exact case(s) where a worker has grievances but not full legal remedy for having been deceived (Bava Metzia 75b-76b). Bava Kamma 8b discusses a practical implication of taromet. Under normal circumstances, only parties to a court case can get directly involved in the litigation. However, if Reuven sells a field to Shimon, and then Reuven’s creditor goes to court to extract the field, which had a lien for their loan, Reuven may get involved in the case, with the claim that the case affects him directly. How? Even in a case where Shimon cannot demand reimbursement from Reuven, Reuven still has a halachically recognized interest that Shimon should not have taromet on him.
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