Question:

A very old pair of tefillin were on sale on eBay for . The seller is from Israel. He advertised the tefillin as being made of leather and wood. I have two questions: 1. Was I obligated to inform the seller that all tefillin are never made of anything but 100% animal products? (I was the only one who bid on them; perhaps if the seller didn’t say they were also made out of wood more people would have bid on them and they could have sold for more?) 2. I sent the seller an email asking if he would sell them to me for before the auction ended (after two days I was the only one who placed a bid). He agreed and I paypal’ed him plus shipping. Only afterwards did I inform him that tefillin never contain any wood. Perhaps I should have informed him of this fact before I made the purchase? Did I acquire these tefillin through committing a transgression (i.e. taking advantage of the seller’s lack of knowledge of the true nature of the product)? Thank you and yashar koach.

Answer:

I don’t think there is any problem here. Anyone who would be interested in buying an old pair of tefillin would realise, as you did, that the tefillin were not made of wood, so I don’t think he lost any bidders as a result of this misinformation.

As far as the seller not knowing the true nature of the object he was selling, in this case it would only be relevant if as a result of his ignorance of the product, he was being underpaid. It’s almost impossible to put a price on an old pair of tefillin – it would very much depend on who wrote them, the condition that they were in etc. If he offered them for auction and no-one offered more than you, it’s probably a fair indication of the price it’s worth.

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