Shabbat Parashat Matot-Masei| 5763
Ona’ah(Overpricing or Underpaying) - Introduction
There are two halachic ramifications of ona’ah. One is the prohibition to overprice or underpay, and the other is the need to return the money or even the object when appropriate. A fascinating gemara (Bava Metzia 61a) equates both ona’ah and taking interest on a loan (ribbit) to theft, although the gemara also points out distinctions between them. The lenient side of ona’ah is that it is done as part of a relatively normal act of commerce.
Since we have been discussing bibliography, we should note that the laws of ribbit are found in Yoreh Deah (which deals with what is permitted and what is forbidden), whereas ona’ah is discussed in Choshen Mishpat (which deals with monetary matters). Questions on this point should be raised to R. Yehudah Hanasi, editor of the Mishna, not to the authors of the Tur and Shulchan Aruch. The fourth perek of Bava Metzia, in dealing with ona’ah, concentrates on return of money, after the fact. In contrast, the fifth perek, in dealing with ribbit, concentrates on what is permitted or forbidden and mentions the return of money, after the fact, only in passing.
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