י״ז בתמוז ה׳תשע״ז (July 11, 2017)

Bava Batra 170a-b: Documenting a Loan Payment

The Mishna teaches that when someone pays back part of a loan we must find ways to allow him to prove that he no longer owes the full amount. Rabbi Yehuda says that a new note must be written; Rabbi Yosei says that the lender should write a receipt. Rabbi Yehuda objects to Rabbi Yosei’s suggestion because that places the onus of responsibility on the borrower to guard his receipt “from mice” – lest they eat it, or should he lose it in some other way. The Mishna records that Rabbi Yosei responds by saying that it is appropriate for him to have to guard his receipt, so that the other’s rights will not be infringed upon.

All agree that Rabbi Yosei’s statement refers to the fact that having to write a new promissory note with a smaller loan obligation will be to the detriment of the lender. Several possibilities are suggested to explain this.

  • Tosafot argue that the new promissory note will have to have the current date on it. Since ordinarily all of the borrower’s property serves to guarantee the loan from the time written in the note, a later date limits the property from which the lender can collect, if the borrower had sold land between the date of the original loan and the new date when the loan was partially paid off.
  • The Rashbam believes that the new promissory note will have the earlier date written in it, since that is when the loan was registered. He offers a different explanation, claiming that the lender has a better chance of collecting the loan when there is a larger amount of money written in the note. This is because the fear that the lender will brandish the larger note – with the possibility that a receipt may be lost or destroyed – will serve to encourage the borrower to pay the rest as soon as possible.
  • The Ramban offers a variation on this theme, suggesting that a borrower doesn’t really care if he has a small sum outstanding, and he will not hurry to pay off the debt.
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