Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mechanics of a pruzbul

We learned in a Mishna: A pruzbul is not made out unless the borrower has some land. If he has none, the creditor can give him ownership (through a third party) from any amount of his own land (and then a pruzbul may be written).

Rav Chiya bar Ashi said in the name of Rav (Daf Yomi: Gittin 37a): Even land the size of a carob stalk is sufficient.

Rav Yehudah said: Even if the creditor only lends him a place sufficient for the borrower to put his stove or oven, a pruzbul may be written because of it.

Rashi explains that the Rabbinical establishment of a pruzbul is only for a usual case, and since, generally, one did not lend money to someone who did not possess land, a pruzbul cannot be written in such a case.

The Rashba asks on Rashi: Is the case where the creditor lends the debtor land in order to collect from considered a usual case? Why there did we allow a pruzbul to be written? He explains that the Rabbis did not differentiate between the cases, and as long as the debtor has some property, a pruzbul may be written.

The Tumim (67:22) writes that it would seem from Rashi that the debtor is required to have land at the time of the loan, for then, it will be usual for the creditor to lend him money. However, there is no necessity for him to have land at the time that the pruzbul is being written! This, he states, is bewildering, for the primary reason for the land is that the creditor should have what to collect from!?

He answers that this case would also be an unusual one. For it is not common for a debtor to have land at the time of the loan and afterwards sell it, for there will not be many purchasers interested in buying land that is pledged to a creditor. Therefore, the presumption is that if he had land at the time of the loan, he would still have land at the time the pruzbul is being written.

Accordingly, the Tumim concludes, that if the loan would be a verbal one, and there is no land to collect from, it is not considered a usual case and a pruzbul would not be written.

The Rash explains differently. He states that a pruzbul is written only when the debtor has land, for then, the debt is regarded as if it has been already collected. This is comparable to the case where he lent with a collateral, where in that case, shemitah does not cancel the loan for that very same reason.

The Rashbam in Bava Basra (66a) also explains like that, but he adds that when the debtor has land, it not completely regarded as if it is paid already like the collateral case; rather, it appears as if there is a security on the loan. If there would be a collateral, shemitah would not cancel the debt according to the Biblical law. The Chachamim did not want to establish this institution in a manner that appeared as if they were uprooting a halachah from the Torah.

The Ran writes that there is an apparent distinction between the two explanations. According to the Rash, it would be necessary for the debtor to possess the land at the conclusion of shemitah, for then is when the loan would be cancelled. According to Rashi, it is only necessary for the debtor to possess land in the beginning, for then it is a usual circumstance, and a pruzbul may be written.