1) HOW BINDING IS A VERBAL COMMITMENT TO SELL?
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses a case in which one person told his friend, "If I sell this field, I will sell it to you." The two parties made a Kinyan confirming the owner's verbal commitment. In spite of his agreement and the Kinyan, however, the owner sold the field to someone else. Rav Yosef and Abaye argue about the law in such a case. Rav Yosef says that the first person already acquired the field and therefore may take it away from the second person. Abaye says that the second person may keep his purchase, because the original two parties did not finalize a purchase price when they made their agreement. If they would have finalized a price when they made their agreement, then everyone would agree that the first person would have the rights to the field, unless the second agreed to pay a higher price (as the Gemara later discusses).
The SHULCHAN ARUCH (CM 206:1) adds some details to the case. He writes that if the owner of the field said, "When I sell this field, it is sold to you from now for one hundred Maneh," and he made a Kinyan, then the first person acquires the rights to buy the field.
Why does the Shulchan Aruch change the language of the agreement to, "it is sold to you," instead of using the Gemara's language of, "I will sell it to you"? In addition, why does the Shulchan Aruch add the words, "from now," which are not mentioned by the Gemara?
(a) The TAZ and NESIVOS HA'MISHPAT (CM 206:1) explain that there is an argument about whether or not a commitment in which a person attributes a future action (such as "I will sell the object to you") to the present moment ("that will take effect from right now") takes effect. The Shulchan Aruch (CM 245:4) writes that there is an opinion that maintains that such a commitment is binding. The Shulchan Aruch here (CM 206:1), however, rules in accordance with the opinion that such a combination of tenses is not binding, and this is why he alters the case to read, "... it is sold to you from now," using the present tense for both the action ("it is sold") and the time that it takes effect ("from now"). The TUR (CM 206:1), on the other hand, rules in accordance with the opinion that such a statement is binding, and therefore he records the case as it appears in the Gemara.
(b) The Shulchan Aruch is following the view of earlier opinions that include the words "from now" in the person's statement. This is the wording of RAV HAI GA'ON (SEFER HA'MEKACH, Sha'ar 37), the RAMBAM (Hilchos Mechirah 8:7), the BA'AL HA'ITUR (400:39b), the TUR and others. The BEIS YOSEF (CM 206:1) himself explains why one must say "from now" in order for the commitment to be binding: without this statement, it is only a Kinyan Devarim (an acquisition of mere words) which is not binding. Moreover, in a regular deal the purchaser must obligate himself to buy the property in question. The words "from now" take away these two problems, since the transaction takes effect now, requiring the owner to sell and the purchaser to pay the agreed-upon price (see DERISHAH).
(c) The Beis Yosef further quotes the Ba'al ha'Itur (400:11) who says that without the words "from now," the transaction is merely an Asmachta, a commitment to an uncertain transaction. The Halachah is that an Asmachta-transaction is not binding. However, the Ba'al ha'Itur adds that this case is not really a case of Asmachta, as there are no additional details which are part of the transaction which have yet to be clarified. (See Beis Yosef CM 207:13 for an extensive discussion about whether or not extra details define an Asmachta.)
(d) The DERISHAH points out that according to the Tur -- who also includes the words "from now" in the owner's statement -- neither the reason of Asmachta nor the reason of Kinyan Devarim applies to require those words ("from now") to be said. The Tur rules like the opinions mentioned above that maintain that this statement, even without the words "from now," is not an Asmachta. Furthermore, the opinion of TOSFOS in Bava Metzia (66a, DH u'Minyumi) and the ROSH there (5:29) is that in the case of any ordinary Kinyan, the Kinyan is made with the understanding that the Kinyan is activated "from now" unless specified otherwise, and this is also the opinion of the Tur. Consequently, there must be a different reason for why the Tur requires that the words "from now" be said.
The Derishah explains that although a normal Kinyan is valid "from now" without these words being stated, this is not true in the case of the Gemara here. When the owner says, "When I will sell it, I will sell it to you," it is not reasonable to say that the Kinyan is an ordinary Kinyan that should take effect from right now, because his language indicates that everything is to take place in the future. (See also S'MA CM 206:1.) (Y. MONTROSE)
2) HALACHAH: THE LAW OF "NITZOK CHIBUR" WITH REGARD TO "YAYIN NESECH"
OPINIONS: The Gemara records different opinions regarding whether the principle of "Nitzok Chibur" applies to Yayin Nesech. "Nitzok Chibur" means that the column of flowing liquid creates a Halachic connection between the liquid in the first container with the liquid in the second container. Rav Huna (on 72a) proves that when one pours wine into a barrel containing Yayin Nesech, all of the wine in the first container also becomes Yayin Nesech when the first drops of wine being poured touch the Yayin Nesech in the second barrel. Rav Nachman refutes Rav Huna's proof. What is the Halachah?
(a) The RAMBAN quotes RABEINU CHANANEL who rules that Nitzok is a Chibur; it does create a connection. He explains that Rav Nachman himself never directly argues with Rav Huna; he merely refutes his proof. Moreover, Rav Chisda (72b) told people who would pour wine for Nochrim to do so by stopping the stream of wine from the top of the pitcher before the first droplets of wine reach the bottom vessel (which is easier to do when pouring from a distance), or to throw the wine into the vessels of the Nochrim. Both ways indicate that Rav Chisda was wary of the fact that Nitzok is a Chibur. This is also the opinion of TOSFOS (DH Kocho), the RAMBAM (Hilchos Ma'achalos Asuros 12:12), and many other Rishonim.
RASHI (DH d'Gava'i) also writes that the Halachah is that Nitzok is a Chibur. The Gemara states that when one pours wine from a barrel into a pit, the wine that drips off of the barrel is forbidden. Rav Ashi explains that this case refers to a Nochri who pours wine. Rav Ashi understands that Nitzok is a Chibur, and no one afterwards argues with his statement. This indicates that the Halachah follows the opinion that Nitzok is a Chibur. Since the Nochri's effect on the wine creates only an Isur d'Rabanan (as he does not touch the actual wine), he prohibits only the wine that drips or pours out of the barrel, but not the wine inside the barrel.
The RITVA, RAN, RAMBAN and others ask that Rashi's words are difficult to understand. Rashi says, in the same sentence, that the Halachah is that Nitzok is a Chibur, and that whatever is not poured and remains inside the barrel is not forbidden! How can both statements be true? Once the part of the wine poured outside the barrel becomes Yayin Nesech, that wine automatically connects the rest of the contents of the barrel with the wine that was poured out and it should all become Yayin Nesech!
The Ritva and Ran answer that since the wine outside the barrel is forbidden only because of an Isur d'Rabanan, the Rabanan were lenient and ruled that in such a case the law of Nitzok does not forbid what remains inside the barrel, but only what drips outside of the barrel.
The RA'AVAD and RABEINU YITZCHAK (quoted in SEFER HA'YASHAR #719) also rule that Nitzok is a Chibur. However, they argue that Rav Ashi is not of this opinion, because if he maintains that Nitzok is a Chibur, then all of the wine in the barrel should be forbidden.
(b) The Rishonim quote the RABOSEINU HA'TZARFASIM who rule that Nitzok is not a Chibur. This is also the opinion of RABEINU TAM. In the discussion between Rav Huna and Rav Nachman, the Gemara concludes that Rav Huna's proof is not conclusive. Just as Rebbi Chiya was unsure of the Halachah in this case, Rav Huna himself may have been unsure as well. This is supported by the Gemara earlier (56b) that first assumes that Rav Huna ruled a certain way because he maintains "Nitzok Chibur," and then the Gemara says that the case there is different and it is not a case of "Nitzok Chibur." If, however, the Gemara here is certain that Rav Huna maintains "Nitzok Chibur," then why does the Gemara earlier not interpret Rav Huna's statement to be in accordance with his view that Nitzok is a Chibur?
There seems to be a strong proof for this opinion in the Gemara later which discusses the "Kanishkanin," wide jugs with two or three reed-straws that protrude from their sides and that reach the height of the jug. (Those straws would fill up when the jugs were filled with wine, enabling a number of people to drink from the jugs at one time.) The Gemara states that Mar Zutra and Rabah permitted Jews to drink from the Kanishkanin together with a Nochri, as long as the Nochri did not stop drinking. The jug of wine becomes forbidden only when the Nochri stops drinking, because the wine he stopped drinking goes back down into the jug, making the rest of the wine forbidden. According to one version of the Gemara, Rabah himself drank wine in such a manner. According to the opinion that Nitzok is a Chibur, why is this permitted? As soon as the Nochri begins to drink, the jug should become forbidden, because all of the wine is connected to the wine that the Nochri is drinking! It is this Gemara which persuades the RAMBAN to conclude that Nitzok is not a Chibur.
The Ritva answers that it is possible that the decree of Nitzok applies only when one pours something with his hand. In the case of Kanishkanin, the Nochri's contact with the wine involves only his lips. Since most Nochrim who pour wine for Avodah Zarah do not do so with their lips alone, the Rabanan did not apply their decree of "Nitzok Chibur" in such a case. (See also the answer of the Ran in the name of the Ra'avad.) (Y. MONTROSE)