ט׳ בשבט ה׳תשע״ו (January 19, 2016)

Gittin 37a-b: Nevertheless, I Want to Repay You

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, aside from the agricultural laws connected with the shemitta year, the Torah also commands that all debts are annulled during the Sabbatical year via the law known as shemittat kesafim. Can the borrower insist on paying back the loan or is the creditor obligated to refuse payment?

In this case, the Torah law notwithstanding, the creditor is not obligated to do more than offer a perfunctory statement that the loan need not be repaid. Should the borrower insist on paying, the lender can certainly take the money; in fact the general attitude of is that loans should be paid back even after the shemitta year has annulled them.

In this vein, Rabba rules: “Ve-tali lei ad d’amar hakhi – he hangs it (or him) until he says this,” a statement that is understood differently by the various rishonim. Rashi suggests that after formally saying, “Meshamet ani – I recognize that shemitta frees you from paying,” the creditor can hang the borrower from a tree until he says, “Af al pi ken – nevertheless, I want to repay you.” Most of the rishonim understand Rabba as advising the creditor to hint broadly that he would like the loan repaid, even as he is saying the required formula meshamet ani. The Ra’avad understands differently, suggesting that it is the borrower who should hang the money in front of the lender, i.e. offer it to him even after he has refused it.

To illustrate this principle, the Gemara tells that once Abba bar Marta owed a sum of money to Rabba. When Rabba said meshamet ani, Abba bar Marta took him at his word and kept the money. When Abaye saw how upset Rabba was, he followed Abba bar Marta and hinted broadly to him that Rabba would accept payment of the loan were it offered to him. Upon receiving payment, Rabba commented that a sage like Abba bar Marta should have known to respond, “Af al pi ken.”

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