The Mishnah (4:2) teaches:
How [does meshicha acquire]? If [the buyer] took the produce [but] had not give the money, he cannot go back [on the purchase]. If [the buyer] gave the money [but] had not taken the produce, he can go back [on the sale]. But the sages stated He who was exacted punishment on the generation of the flood and the generation of the dispersion will in future punish those that do not stand by their word.
The Mishnah mentions that the Chachamim instituted a form of curse on those that revert on a sale after handing over the money. The “mi shepara” is associated with the punishments delivered to the generation of the flood and the generation of the dispersion (related to the Tower of Bavel). The Beraita extends the mi shepara adding the associations with the people of Sedom and Amora and the Egyptians that drowned in the Yam Suf.
There is a debate in the Gemara regarding the mi shepara. Abaye holds that Beit Din simple warns the person that reneging on the sale may in future have dire consequences. Rava however states that the Beit Din deliver the curse. Abaye points to the prohibition of cursing anyone in Am Yisrael (Shemot 22:27) in support of his position. Rava however rejects it as the pasukrestricts it to those people that are “amcha” – people that behave in the manner of our nation, unlike this person that wished to revert after the money was paid. The Ritva explains that Abaye does not disagree with Rava’s understanding of the pasuk, nevertheless since the person may have backed out for monetary reasons or because he simple did not need it, he should not be excluded from amcha.
How are we to understand the mi shepara’s association with these four groups of people that were punished? The Tifferet Yisrael explains that there are four reasons why people sin; they are represented by these four groups. The first is desire to satisfy physical or material desires. Even though the generation of the flood was ultimately punished for their thievery, they were a generation that was consumed by the pursuit of physical pleasures. The Torah highlights not just thievery but they pursuit of woman, etc.
The second reason for sin is the pursuit of honour. “Let us make for ourselves a name” was the battle cry of the generation of the dispersion. The third is the insatiable appetite for money. The people of Sedom were famous for guarding their wealth and being in opposition to helping those in need. The final reason is the denial of Hashem’s providence. This was the sin of Paro how said “who is Hashem?” and persisted in his sin. He believed that there was no ultimate Overseer and that man-kind was like fish in a trap where the strong dominate the weak and the fittest survives.
These four groups broke down their society and were punished in kind. Similarly a person who does not keep his word, motivated by one of these four reasons, breeds distrust and create fractures in society. Therefore the curse, his actions motivated by one of these four reasons, is associated with these four groups.
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