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The Rambam writes [Hilchot Gezelah v’Avedah 1:9]:

Anyone who covets a male or female servant, or the house or the goods of his neighbor, or anything that he can buy from him, and he exerts friendly pressure and annoys him until he buys it from him, even for a high price, breaks the prohibition: "You shall not covet" [Ex. 20:14]

(1) What is the Rambam's source?

(2) The Rambam describes pressure amounting to harassment. Is that what is prohibited? What if I told my neighbor just once: "I love your house and would like to buy it for twice its market value"? Is this wrong? Why? He can always say no and that would be the end of it. (The Rambam goes on to describe a slippery slope that may lead to robbery, adultery, murder, etc., but I don't see why it has to be that way.)

(3) Can you tell a poor husband, “Divorce your wife so I can marry her. I'll give you a million dollars and she will live like a queen.” No? Why not? He can always say no and there is nothing illegal there.

  • Will the downvoter please go stand in the corner? – Maurice Mizrahi Dec 29 '19 at 2:40
  • I didn't downvoted, but it seems that you ask more then one question. – Alaychem goes to Codidact Dec 29 '19 at 14:45
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(1) The Magid Mishneh cites the Mechiltah (Parshas Yisro) and Gemarah Bava Metziah 5b, which describe cases of payment as being violation of "You shall not covet", as sources for the Rambam's statement.

(2) and (3) The language of the Rambam ("annoys him until he buys it") suggests to me that simply asking just once would not be a violation of coveting.

However, the prohibition of "You shall not desire" (Devarim 5:18), which Rambam defines as scheming to acquire, is an additional factor to consider.

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  • "The language of the Rambam ("annoys him until he buys it") suggests to me that simply asking just once would not be a violation of coveting." Then it's the harassment, not the coveting, that's the problem and the infraction. – Maurice Mizrahi Dec 29 '19 at 2:42
  • @MauriceMizrahi They're not mutually exclusive. True, the prohibition is not violated until the harassment, but that doesn't necessarily mean the coveting isn't part of it. – Jay Dec 29 '19 at 3:04
  • The gemara you cite is about "taking an item from another by force or deceit, even if one pays for it". Pressure, even harassment, is neither force not deceit. The Gemara adds: The prohibition “You shall not covet” is understood by most people as referring to taking an item without paying money. – Maurice Mizrahi Dec 29 '19 at 3:20
  • @MauriceMizrahi I believe the Gemarah there is discussing the rationalization of someone who keeps something he's supposed to watch for himself, but mistakenly thinks its okay because he'll pay for it. The Gemarah asks that even according to his rationalization its still not okay because of lo tachmod, so how does he justify it to himself. The Gemarah answers that most people mistakenly think that L.T. is only without payment, so in his mind what he's doing is still kosher. We see that L.T. requires action and is not thought alone. But we don't see that it necessarily requires force. – Jay Dec 29 '19 at 3:45
  • @MauriceMizrahi The guy in that case is actually a thief, but if he wasn't (according to his logic) the Gemarah is saying he'd be violating L.T. instead. – Jay Dec 29 '19 at 3:52

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