From the Rav’s Desk: Retracting from purchase of fridge if did not yet pay


Someone in our neighborhood [a fellow Jew] publicized that they are selling their fridge. We contacted them and agreed upon the sale price although I explained to the seller that I don’t yet have the money to pay him and I will pay him the next month. He agreed and said I can already take the fridge from his home so he can bring in his new fridge. We brought the fridge from his home to ours, and after a week of using the fridge a friend of ours in the neighborhood told us that they are moving out of the country and offered us to take their fridge for free. Their fridge is much more advanced and of greater quality then the fridge we just got. My question is as follows: Since I did not yet pay the seller, may I tell him that I changed my mind on the sale and no longer want to go through with it. I would be more than willing to return the fridge to his home or even to have him sell it to another person and then deliver the fridge from my home to the next buyers home. I already spoke to him about this and he was not happy that we want to retract on the sale saying that it’s not right. What is the law? Do I retain the right to retract from the sale or not?



You do not retain the right to retract from the sale, and therefore you must pay the full amount to the seller despite your current reservations and new opportunity for a better fridge. I suggest you sell it to another person just like the person sold it to you.

Explanation: It is a clear ruling in the Talmud and Poskim, that once a Halachically valid acquisition has been made by a transaction, then the transaction is a done deal which can no longer be retracted from by either party, irrelevant of reason, unless there was a provable Mekach Taus involved in the sale. Now, regarding which Halachically valid transaction is necessary to finalize the sale of a fridge, this follows the same laws all Mitaltelin, or movable objects, that the Halachically valid form of acquisition of such items is Meshicha or Hagbah, which means that the buyer lifts or drags the item. If such an acquisition was done then the sale is no longer retractable even if the buyer has yet to pay the seller, as the item now fully belongs to the buyer [at least Rabbinically, and some say Biblically]. Clearly, in this case the fridge was both dragged and lifted by the buyer, and hence neither he nor the seller can withdraw from the sale even though the buyer has yet to pay the seller for the fridge.

Sources: See Michaber and Rama C.M. 198:1; Rambam Mechira 3:1, 4; Mishneh Kiddushin 25b; Encyclopedia Talmudit Erech Mitaltelin p. 576; Toras Hakinyanim Chapter 5 and 6     

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