[Avodah] Onaah and economic models

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Fri Jun 21 10:32:31 PDT 2024

On Mon, Jun 10, 2024 at 02:09:14PM +0200, Arie Folger via Avodah wrote:
> The premise behind coming onaah is that good are commodities asked they
> have an approximate market price. This is definitely true for some good,
> but it's it the rule out the exception?

A major problem we have for understanding Ona'ah is the economic system
chazal lived under.

The "sha'ar" refers to a fixed market price. In chazal's day, the
government fixed commodity prices. Maybe for all commodities, maybe only
for necessary staples. I don't know.

In any case, the problems of defining ona'ah were much simpler for Chazal
than for us living in economies with far more open markets.

R Asher Weiss (Mishpetei Aretz vol III, Hal' BALC 10:47) presents
a machloqes:

The BY (CM 209:1) holds that there is no ona'ah if there is no fixed
market price.

However, the Rama (Darchei Moshe CM 209:1), the Bach, Taz, and the
derishah (all ibid) all hold that if there is a common market price,
onaah applies.

RAW himself holds like the BY, believing it's shitas haRosh (13:20).

The Sheivet haLeivi (5:218) holds like the Ashkenazi rishonim and dismisses
the Rosh as irreleveant.

Also note: Onaah isn't a fairness thing, but a brotherhood one. Which is
why it only applies between Jews. I wonder if that means that any heterim
for ribis by corporate entities would apply to onaah as well?

Anyway, the siblings-don't-do-that nature means that onaah cannot be
waved by the seller simply saying "I want the sale to be valid regardless
of onaah." If it were about fairness, the buyer would simply be able to
be mocheil the money. The loss has to be more conscious than that. The
seller could make the sale stick only if he says "it usually costs X,
but I am charging you Y."

For the same reasoning, allowances are made for convenience stores,
because you are choosing to pay for convenience. And I would assume the
same is true for a can of soda at a restaurant.


Micha Berger                 Nothing so soothes our vanity as a display of
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   greater vanity in others; it makes us vain,
Author: Widen Your Tent      in fact, of our modesty.
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF            -Louis Kronenberger, writer (1904-1980)

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