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Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim Vayeilech 5773

P'ninat Mishpat: Claim that One Paid an Award

(based around Maharik 118)

[We continue with our series of citing passages from early authorities relating to matters of beit din that have served as sources for later generations. This is the second installment from the Maharik.]


You asked about the case where Shimon has a written ruling of beit din stating that Reuven owes him money and now Reuven claims that he paid after beit din’s ruling and Shimon denies receiving it.

You should know that this is the subject of a machloket between the Ra’avya, who says that the defendant is believed that he paid, and the Maharam, who says that he is not believed. The Maharam brought a proof. [Our text of the Maharik says that the proof is from the 10th perek of Bava Batra, but the Beit Yosef (Choshen Mishpat 19) cites Teshuvot Maimoniot, Mishpatim 66 as the location of the Maharam and, there he brings the following proof from the 1st perek of Bava Metzia (17a). The gemara says that if beit din instructed the defendant to pay, he is believed to say that he did so, and therefore if the plaintiff requests somewhat after the ruling to commit it to writing, we do not do so out of concern that the award was already paid. The Maharam reasons that the subsequent transcribing of the ruling is problematic only if it will prevent the defendant from claiming that he paid. So, it is apparent from the gemara’s concern that the defendant is not believed when there is a written ruling, only when the ruling is oral.]

However, even the Maharam said that the defendant is not believed only in regard to a written ruling of the beit din that is responsible for the proceedings. However, even regarding something in writing, if it is a case where a local beit din heard the claims and sent them to a more knowledgeable beit din to decide the matter, the response of the experts is not considered a written ruling that precludes the defendant from being believed that he paid. [The logic is that the reason a debtor is not believed to say he paid his debt when there is a document (shtar) asserting the debt is that the document is written specifically to insure payment and exclude the possibility of a claim he paid. The argument of the Rishonim (see Beit Yosef, Choshen Mishpat 39) is whether a ruling is written for that purpose or for some other. If so, it is clear that the written response of the expert beit din, which simply needed to communicate their opinion to the original beit din, is not significant in this regard.]


[The Maharik is cited by the Beit Yosef in CM 19 but not in the Shulchan Aruch. Regarding the machloket between the Ra’avya and the Maharam, the Shulchan Aruch (CM 39:10) rules like the Maharam that when the plaintiff possesses a written ruling, the defendant requires proof that he paid. The Rama adds two limitations: 1. The defendant must have been told that the plaintiff is receiving a written ruling; 2. If a significant amount of time goes by without the plaintiff demanding payment of the debt, we can assume that it was because the defendant already paid.]

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