You buy a new Talis and after you wear it you notice a defect. You want to return it to the store for a refund or replacement. However a person is only obligated in Tzitzis if he owns or borrows the garment. Now if you return it does this make the Bracha you made on the Talis a Bracha L'Vatala?

Another example:

You buy an expensive Esrog. During Succos it starts going bad. If you demand your money back, what happens to the Mitzva you did on the first day of Sukkos? On the first day you are only obligated if the Esrog belongs to you. If you cancel the sale, then the Esrog did not belong to you.

Possible practical ramifications:

  • Perhaps one should not return the item in such a case.

  • Perhaps once one has decided to return the item, one should cease making a Bracha over it.

How does a person deal with these type of cases?

  • 2
    +1 Interesting question! But is a b'racha l'vatala l'mafre'a even possible? Can you invalidate praise of Hashem?
    – WAF
    Jun 15, 2012 at 2:48
  • @WAF Bracha Levatala might still be praise. It could just be assur to do.
    – Double AA
    Jun 15, 2012 at 3:58
  • Lemai nafka minah? Would you suggest not making a blessing on an object you need to own to do the mitzva until its return period has expired?
    – Isaac Moses
    Jun 15, 2012 at 14:13
  • 1
    Maybe a better example is someone who buys a new Talit Katan and finds a (non-halakhic) defect on Friday after one day of use. He makes a plan to return it after Shabbos. Can the person make the bracha on it on Shabbos? Jun 15, 2012 at 14:45
  • 1
    I fail to see why returning an object is a LeMafrea' invalidation of the previous sale 'Al Pi Halachah. Do you have a source that suggests this? Some stores have a no-returns policy, which might imply that those stores that do accept returns are doing so as a courtesy, essentially buying the item back, not as a function of retroactively invalidating the original sale.
    – Seth J
    Jun 15, 2012 at 17:11

3 Answers 3


The poskim discuss the case of a person who separated challah with a b'rachah and then did hataras n'darim to nullify the separation (and therefore will have to separate again). Is the person's b'rachah considered l'vatalah? The Chasam Sofer says it was not l'vatalah, possibly based on the S'dei Chemed, Vol. 6, p. 320. But the case of the tallis may be worse, because since it was a mekach ta'us, it's as if there was never any kinyan. Can the tallis buyer be blamed? Maybe.

  • +1 and I wish I could +1 again for, "But the case of the tallis may be worse, because since it was a mekach ta'us, it's as if there was never any kinyan. Can the tallis buyer be blamed? Maybe." That's the crux of the issue, isn't it? Whether or not it was, in fact, a valid sale, as determined by the terms of the buyer and seller's agreement.
    – Seth J
    Jun 20, 2012 at 21:09
  • Where is the Chasam Sofer exactly?
    – Yehoshua
    Oct 1, 2012 at 20:23

The halacha by lulav an esrog (as codified by the Shulchan Aruch OC 648:4) is that I can give it to my friend as a present on condition that he return it, and through that it is considered that he owns it for that time period, and he thereby fulfills his obligation with it. However, if he fails to return it in time it retroactively was never his. In this case the SA rules that he retroactively did not fulfill his obligation. I would guess that it follows that the bracha recited on the mitzva is retroactively in vain as well. If you are voiding a sale retroactively, the same logic would apply.

  • 1
    Does voiding a sale mean it never happened, or that you reverse the actions (transfer of goods and money)? Jun 15, 2012 at 2:36
  • 3
    If the sale is being voided because of an understanding that "I never would have bought it had I known..." then what's really being said is that I never had the requisite intent to acquire the item, which means that retroactively the sale never occurred.
    – Dov F
    Jun 15, 2012 at 2:39
  • 1
    This source gets us part of the way, but as reasoned in YDK's as-yet-unsourced answer, it could well be that the mitzva was lost, but the blessing still doesn't retroactively become in vain.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jun 15, 2012 at 14:11
  • @IsaacMoses What's the difference the retroactive status of the bracha, if we know what to in future cases? (cf. the end of my comment here)
    – Double AA
    Jun 15, 2012 at 15:17
  • Ditto @MonicaCellio. Dov, I'm not convinced. Unless the statement was made at the point of sale stipulating that it is 'Al Tenai, why is this not just a courtesy of the seller to buy it back (not LeMafrea')?
    – Seth J
    Jun 15, 2012 at 17:19

I need to find a specific proof for this presumption, but when I learned retroactive areas, I pictured 2 timelines, 1 that happened but discontinued, and 1 that supplanted the first timeline and continued (Think Back to the Future).

In the case of the esrog, the retroactive reality of not owning the esrog supplants the reality of the one where he owns the esrog. In the present continuous timeline, he has not fulfilled the mitzva of esrog.

But the problem of making an unnecessary bracha is not that there is a bracha with no mitzva, but that I'm not allowed to mention G-d's Name in vain. In the timeline that the bracha was made, he did a mitzva and it was appropriate and mandated for him to make a bracha on the esrog at that time. That in the superseding timeline the mitzva did not exist is irrelevant.

  • 3
    I like your logic, but a source that says that in the new timeline the Berachah was never made would be helpful. For my part, I'm not convinced that the sale was retroactively canceled anyway.
    – Seth J
    Jun 15, 2012 at 17:18
  • @SethJ, but I'm not saying the bracha does not exist. It does exist as the bracha is not conditional. My point was that the bracha is, nevertheless, not levatala.
    – YDK
    Jun 15, 2012 at 18:00

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