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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Purim & The Month of Adar

Bottled Up

Yair give Avi Champagne by mistake on Purim. Does Avi have to compensate Yair for the bottle of champagne?
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"Shoshanat Yaakov tzahala v’sameicha…" Yair sang, as he looked around the living room with satisfaction. There was no doubt about it. Miriam had outdone herself, yet again. After weeks of agonizing, his wife had finally settled on an aquatic theme for the Purim meal.
Although Yair had long ago tired of the tableware discussions, even he had to admit that the turquoise napkins coordinated perfectly with the plates. And the aquariums, featuring an array of imported tropical fish, were not only striking centerpieces, but would also serve as souvenirs for each family in attendance. Of course, all of the food would be catered. After all, the kitchen staff had been busy enough creating the mishloach manot packages.
A knock drew Yair’s attention to the door. He straightened his clown wig and went to answer it. He pulled the door open, and saw none other than… Rabbi Shimon! Yair couldn’t believe it. Rabbi Shimon, revered rabbi of the city, had come to Yair’s house, bearing mishloach manot!
"Honored Rabbi, I’m flattered that you came to my house!" Yair exclaimed. "Please wait a moment!"
Yair took the proffered mishloach manot, placed it on the table, and hurried to his wine cellar. He looked around, searching for a bottle that would be exceptional enough to give to the rabbi. Yair located a bottle of high quality champagne, excitedly ran back to the door, and presented his gift to Rabbi Shimon. The men wished each other happy Purim, and the rabbi turned to leave.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur of music, costumes and cellophane. Soon enough, the guests began to arrive. They oohed and ahhed at the décor, as the kitchen staff began piling food onto the tables. The guests helped themselves to a series of exquisitely presented courses. As the meal wound down, Yair turned to one of the guests and proclaimed "you can’t imagine who came to visit me today! Rabbi Shimon, himself, came to bring me mishloach manot!"
"That’s not possible! Rabbi Shimon is out of town for Purim!" one of the guests exclaimed.
"What do you mean not possible!" retorted Yair. "I saw him myself, this afternoon. What, you think someone would dress up…"
Yair’s face took on a panic-stricken look as the harsh reality sank in. Yes, in fact, it was much more likely that someone dressed up as Rabbi Shimon would arrive at Yair’s doorstep on Purim. Come to think of it, although the costume was excellent, the man in question looked a lot like… Avi!!
"Get Avi on the phone!" Yair called out to no one in particular. He quickly whipped his cellphone out of his pocket, and dialed Avi’s number. "Avi, did you come bring me mishloach manot today?"
The hysterical laughing on the other end of the phone sufficiently answered Yair’s question. "That was a pretty good impression of Rabbi Shimon, don’t you think?" Yair inquired.
"Avi, I meant to give that bottle of champagne to Rabbi Shimon," Yair whined. "Give it back to me!"
"Give it back?" Avi gulped. "We already drank it!"
"But I never meant to give it to you. I only gave it to you because I thought you were Rabbi Shimon!" Yair insisted. "You need to pay me back for the wine!"
"But the fact of the matter is that you did give it to me!" Avi retorted.
Who is right? Does Avi have to compensate Yair for the bottle of champagne?

Answer of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita:
On the one hand, Avi tricked Yair into thinking that Avi was a prominent rabbi. Therefore, accepting the champagne, under those conditions, would seem to be a form of theft. On the other hand, it was Purim, and it is known that on Purim, people dress up in costumes. Therefore, it is possible that Yair had some intention to give the bottle to the man at the door, with the understanding that he might not have been Rabbi Shimon, and was only dressed up as him. (See Rama 695, 2 and 696, 8)
However, in our case, the costume was so convincing, that it is possible that, even though it was Purim, Yair’s giving the wine had the status of "mekach ta’ut" (a transaction made under false pretenses). In practice, it is difficult to ascertain precisely what Yair’s understanding was, when he gave Avi the bottle. Therefore, the ruling is unclear.
In a case of doubt, a Jewish court of law cannot order one party to pay another. However, the Heavenly court might still hold Avi accountable. Therefore, it is proper for Avi to compensate Yair for the bottle of champagne. (See Mishna Yevamot 16, 6).
In summary:According to earthly court, Avi does not have to pay Yair, although it is proper for him to pay, because Heavenly court might hold Avi accountable.




Rabbi Daniel Kirsch
Rabbi Daniel Kirsch studied for many years at the famed Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. He currently lives in Kedumim in the Shomron, where he studies at the yeshiva and teaches classes for adults. In addition, he teaches at an elementary school.
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