Talmud Tips

For the week ending 25 April 2015 / 6 Iyyar 5775

Ketuvot 86 - 92

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

“So that the door will not be locked in front of needy borrowers.”

This oft-quoted metaphor is the explanation Rashi offers to explain our gemara. The Sage Ameimar in the name of Rav Chama teaches what to do in a case where a man borrows money and gets married with a ketuva on the same day, and dies before paying the loan or the ketuva. The ruling is that if the deceased left behind enough wealth and property to pay both parties, then they both receive payment. However, if there is enough to pay only one party, then the lender has priority, even if this means that the lender is paid and the wife is not. This ruling is based on the importance of lenders being willing to offer loans, which requires a feeling of psychological security that the loan will be paid in full. Otherwise, potential lenders will hesitate or refrain from lending to people with financial need to borrow money. This consideration is of upmost concern to society as a whole.

  • Ketuvot 86a

“It’s a mitzvah for the heirs to pay the debt of their father.”

This statement by the Sage Abaye is found on our daf as a ruling in a case where a person borrowed money and then died, leaving the lender to claim payment from the heirs.

What is the mitzvah? Paying the father’s debt is a manner of honoring the parent. Although Beit Din will rule that the heirs should fulfill the mitzvah and are obligated to pay, the Beit Din will not force them to do so if they have no land with a lien on it. Rashi explains that this mitzvah of honoring their father by paying his debt is not explicit in the Torah; rather it is a Rabbinical mitzvah. Therefore no special enforcement measures are taken, unlike compelling fulfillment of explicit Torah mitzvot such as lulav and succah. Tosefot, earlier on 86a, explains differently. Paying their father’s debt is in fact a Torah mitzvah according to Tosefot, but, since the reward for the mitzvah of honoring parents is written in the Torah, the Beit Din does not enforce the fulfillment of this mitzvah. The Torah states that the reward for honoring parents is “your days will be lengthened on the Land that the L-rd, your G-d is giving you.” (Ex. 20:12)

  • Ketuvot 91b

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