For the week ending 25 April 2015 / 6 Iyyar 5775

Ketubot 86 - 92

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Forgiving a debt that one has sold to another
  • Who is more interested in marriage – man or woman
  • The mitzvah of repaying a debt
  • Compelling a reluctant Jew to build a succah
  • Delayed action transactions
  • When a man may compel his wife to take an oath re her honesty
  • When a woman must take an oath in order to collect her ketubah
  • The credibility of a single witness
  • Two document mystery and the ketubah of a minor
  • Two wives and their heirs
  • When ketubat benin dichrin applies
  • Paying a father's debt
  • Selling property with or without a guarantee

Paying Poppa's Debt

  • Ketubot 91b

A debt of 100 zuz was left behind by the deceased, along with only a piece of land, worth fifty, to which his creditor had a claim. When the creditor confiscated this property the heirs paid him fifty zuz to reclaim it. They failed, however, to stipulate that they were purchasing this plot and their payment was therefore understood to be payment of part of their father's debt.

The creditor therefore accepted the money and proceeded to once again confiscate the land. When the case came before the Sage Abaye he ruled in favor of the creditor. The first fifty, he explained, was paid by the heirs as fulfillment of the mitzvah for children to pay their deceased father's debt. The lien that the creditor had on the inherited land entitled him to confiscate it as payment for the other fifty.

What exactly is the mitzvah for children to pay their father's debt even if they inherited no land with a lien on it and why are they not compelled to do so by the court?

Both Rashi and Tosefot explain that the mitzvah is to show respect for the father by settling his debts. As regards court enforcement, Rashi explains that this is not a mitzvah of explicit Torah origin such as succah and lulav which the court actually compels one to fulfill, and is only of a rabbinic nature.

Tosefot (Ketubot 86a), however, considers this mitzvah to be of Torah origin as part of the command to honor parents. The reason he gives for non-enforcement is that the court does not enforce mitzvot for which the Torah has explicitly mentioned a reward such as in the case of honoring parents.

What the Sages Say

"Paying a debt is a mitzvah (as the gemara in Bava Metzia 49b states that your 'yes' and your 'no' should both be honest – Rashi)"

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