For the week ending 10 December 2016 / 10 Kislev 5777

Bava Metzia 72 - 78

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Collecting the principle of a loan with an interest element in it
  • Selling "futures" in regard to grain or fertilizer
  • Transactions forbidden because they look like usury
  • When it is permissible to impose forced labor
  • Loan of grain made to a sharecropper
  • Borrowing a commodity with promise to repay with same
  • Exchanging agricultural services
  • How the creditor must relate to the debtor
  • Lending money with no witnesses present
  • When employee or employer backs out of an arrangement
  • The foreman who misrepresents to employees the employer's offer of payment
  • Variations on labor relations
  • Responsibility of one who rents an animal

Witnessing a Loan

  • Bava Metzia 75b

When one lends money he is obligated to do so in a manner which enables him to prove in court that the loan took place. The rule as stated in our gemara by Rabbi Yehuda in the name of the Sage Rav is that the loan must take place before witnesses. The commentaries, however, point out that it is sufficient to record the loan in a document.

The purpose of insisting on such evidence is to avoid a situation in which the borrower may be tempted to deny that he ever received the money. Not only will the lender then be guilty of causing a Jew to sin by lying, but he will also invite upon himself the curses of people who accuse him of falsely demanding payment.

How far this fear extends is illustrated by the response of the Sage Ravina to a request by Rabbi Ashi for a loan. He insisted that the latter bring witnesses who would sign a document recording the loan. When Rabbi Ashi expressed surprise at such a caution even in regard to someone of his stature, Ravina explained that because he was so immersed in Torah study there was all the more reason to fear that he might forget that he borrowed the money.

This story demonstrates that the need for witnesses is not based on a fear that the borrower will intentionally deny his obligation, but rather that he may forget it and sinfully deny it.

What the Sages Say

"If the creditor is aware that the debtor lacks the money to pay him, it is forbidden for him to intentionally pass before him, for the Torah warns (Shemot 22:24), 'Do not act towards him as a creditor' (by pressuring him through your embarrassing presence – Rashi)."

  • Rabbi Dimi - Bava Metzia 75b

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