י״ח בתמוז ה׳תשע״ז (July 12, 2017)

Bava Batra 171a-b: Proof of Payment

On yesterday’s daf we learned that according to Rabbi Yosei the lender should write a receipt for the amount of a loan that was paid up, a position that Rabbi Yehuda did not accept.

The Gemara on today’s daf quotes Rav Huna the son of Rav Yehoshua as teaching that even Rabbi Yosei suggests writing a receipt only in a situation where there was partial payment of the loan. If the loan was paid off in full, rather than writing a receipt, the lender should return the original promissory note to the borrower. The reasoning behind this ruling is straightforward. According to Rabbi Yosei, when only part of the loan is repaid, the best way to ensure the rights of both the borrower and the lender is by writing a receipt. When the loan is paid in full, however, there is a better way to ensure that justice will be done – simply by returning and destroying the original promissory note that is no longer valid.

This reasoning notwithstanding, the Gemara concludes that we follow the opinion of Rabbi Yoḥanan and Reish Lakish who agree that we do write a receipt, for if we did not, what recourse would a lender have in the event that the original promissory note was lost or destroyed? Would the borrower be freed of his obligation to pay simply because he cannot return the note?

Abaye objects to this argument, claiming that now the borrower is put in a situation where he must fear that if he loses the receipt the lender may discover the original note and demand payment. Rava responds by quoting the passage in Mishle (22:7) that states how a borrower is subservient to the lender – the borrower’s interests are subordinated to those of the lender.

Rav Ya’akov Emden points out that Abaye’s objection has another weakness to it. The case that he presents assumes that the lender will want to cheat the borrower and collect the loan twice. We do not ordinarily assume that people will try to steal from one-another. Rav Emden argues that in all of the cases where the Gemara expresses concern lest the borrower demand more than is due to him, it is not because we are afraid of deceit, rather it is because we are concerned that people forget what transpired or that they leave loans as part of their estate and the people who inherit do not know that payment has already been made.

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