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Shabbat Parashat Mishpatim| 5765
A Pruzbol on a Debt Ruled Upon by Beit Din - Based on Piskei Din - Rabbinical Court of Yerushalayim - vol. III, pp.19-22
Case: The defendant (=de)admitted to owing money to the plaintiff (=pl) due to loans and using checks he stole from pl. However, de claimed that pl owed him more money from other dealings than he owed pl. Beit din rejected de’s claim and obligated him to pay. The decision was rendered at the end of the Shemitta year, with the payment to be handed over to beit din within 30 days. This period ended after the end of Shemitta. Pl did make a pruzbol during the time of the court proceedings but not after the ruling was rendered. Did Shemitta remove the obligation?
Ruling: Although money that beit din needs to rule upon is not removed by Shemitta (Rambam, Shemitta 9:8) in a case like ours that the ruling was rendered before the end of the year, Shemitta can remove the obligation. Furthermore, the Sha’ar Mishpat (67:2) says that a pruzbol made during the time that the money was still being debated before beit din is ineffective, because money in dispute cannot be transferred to beit din, as pruzbol’s mechanism requires. This point actually appears to depend on a fundamental machloket among Acharonim if pruzbol is the handing over to beit din of the actual debts or just of the documents connected to the debts.
In this case, all should agree that the pruzbol should work for the money in dispute. This is because de admitted to owing money and just wanted to exempt himself based on unsubstantiated counter claims. Therefore, when the counter claims were rejected, it turns out retroactively that the existing debt was always clear enough to be transferred to beit din. [In previous issues of P’ninat Mishpat we discussed outlooks on the nature of counter claims, which may raise questions about this argument’s cogency.] Also, Shemitta should not affect the money that de stole, as Shemitta applies to simple debts, not to those that are governed by the obligation to return stolen items.
Another factor in this case, which obligates de to pay despite Shemitta, is the fact that de himself asked to give the payment to beit din, not to pl. That arrangement, which pre-dated the end of Shemitta acts like a pruzbol. A final factor is as follows. The gemara (Makkot 3b) concludes that a loan that is not payable until after Shemitta does not get removed by it. In contrast, when a creditor obligates himself not to claim an existing loan until after Shemitta, it is removed by Shemitta. In our case, where de is not obligated to pay until after Shemitta (beyond the fact that pl cannot claim it), this is another reason why Shemitta does not remove the debt.
For all of the reasons mentioned, de mustpay despite the fact that Shemitta has passed.
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