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Thought for the Day: Takanas HaShuk -- Buyer Protection

This actually happened to my kids.  They had hired a new cleaning lady (with references).  My daughter came home unexpectedly at lunch time and found that the new cleaning lady had invited a couple of friends... one of whom was at the front door standing lookout.  Long story short: the friends had stolen my son-in-law's laptop and managed to fence it for $100 to a local pawn shop.  The police put the perpetrators in custody and told my son-in-law he could buy his laptop back from the pawn shop.  I was astounded!  Why should he have to buy back his own property?

I really should learn more.  Anyone who has bought a house knows that before you make an investment like that, you are going to want a thorough title search to be sure your investment is safe.  Without a title search, most would-be buyers would be scared off by the fear that at any moment they could lose their home to the rightful owners of the house.  It is impossible to do a title search on moveable property -- clothing, blenders, flatware, etc.  Chazal were sensitive to the fact that buyers who are constantly nervous about losing their clothing, blenders, flatware, and whatnot at any moment are not enthusiastic buyers; commerce would be severely hampered.

Chazal therefore instituted "takanas ha'shuk" to protect the marketplace by limiting the type of loss a buyer can experience (Bava Kama 115, and oodles of other places throughout shas and poskim).  While there are many details (are you tired of me saying that?), the broad strokes are straightforward.  Thomas the thief or Mark the mugger steal Oscar the owner's davening jacket.  Thomas and/or Mark sell said jacket to Bruce the buyer for a fair market value of $60.  Thomas and/or Mark are apprehended and identify that Oscar's jacket is in Bruce's possession.  Of course, the jacket needs to be returned to Oscar.  Takanas ha'shuk says (as long as Thomas and/or Mark are not well know criminals and Bruce is not a well known fence) that Oscar must reimburse Bruce for his expenses; Oscar will have to deal with suing Thomas and/or Mark for to be reimbursed for his expenses.

If Thomas and/or Mark had used Oscar's jacket to make a payment on their loan with Larry the lender, on the other hand, then Oscar gets his jacket back and the onus is on Larry to sue Thomas and/or Mark for his expenses.  Fair is fair, after all; there is no reason for Larry to benefit at Oscar's expense.

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