Bava Batra Chapter Ten Mishnah Eight



Mishnah eight, the final mishnah of Bava Batra, deals with a creditor’s ability to recover his debt if the debtor is not able to pay back the loan himself.


Mishnah Eight

1)                     If a man lent his fellow money by using a document, he may recover the debt from mortgaged property.

a)                                           But if he had lent only before witnesses (and not through a document), he may recover the debt only from unmortgaged property.

2)                     If the [creditor] brought forth [a loan document] upon which appeared his (the debtor’s) signature as evidence that he was indebted to him, the creditor may recover the debt only from unmortgaged property.

3)                     If a man signed as a guarantor after the signatures of witnesses, the creditor may recover the debt only from [the guarantor’s] unmortgaged property.

a)                                           Such a case came before Rabbi Yishmael and he said, “He may recover only from unmortgaged property”.

b)                                          Ben Nanos said to him:  “He may recover the debt neither from mortgaged nor unmortgaged property.”

c)                                           He said to him: “Why?”

d)                                          He answered, “If a man seized a debtor by the throat in the street and his fellow found him and said ‘Leave him alone (and I will pay you)’, he is not liable, since not through trust in him did the creditor lend the debtor money.”

e)                                           Rather which type of guarantor is liable?  [If a man said], “Lend him money and I will pay thee”, he is liable, for he lent him the money through his trust in the guarantor.

4)                     And Rabbi Yishmael said, “He who wants to be wise let him occupy himself with cases dealing with monetary matters, for there is no greater branch of Torah than this; for they are like a welling fountain; and he who wishes to occupy himself with laws concerning monetary matters, let him serve [as a pupil] of Shimon ben Nanos.


Explanation—Mishnah Eight

Section one:  If a man used a document to lend money he may recover the debt even from mortgaged property.  This means that if after the time of the loan the debtor sold some of his property and then was not able to repay the loan the creditor can collect from that sold property.  If, however, the loan was only done orally, with witnesses to testify, then he may only recover from unmortgaged property, namely property still in the hands of the debtor.

Section two:  If the creditor had a debt document written or signed by the debtor himself, but not signed by witnesses, he may collect from unmortgaged property but not from mortgaged property.

Section three:  According to Rabbi Yishmael if the witnesses signed on a document and the guarantor signed afterwards the creditor may collect only from the guarantor’s unmortgaged property but not from his mortgaged property.  Ben Nanos disagrees with Rabbi Yishmael and states that in such a case the creditor cannot collect from any of the guarantor’s property.  The reason is that the creditor loaned the money not based on his trust of the guarantor.  Ben Nanos makes an analogy to a creditor who attacks a debtor and a third party promises to pay back the debt.  In such a case the creditor does not actually believe that the guarantor will pay back the debt and therefore the guarantor is not obligated to repay the loan.  According to Ben Nanos only if the guarantor guarantees the loan before it is executed and the creditor makes the loan from the outset knowing who the guarantor is can the creditor collect from the guarantor.

Section four:  Rabbi Yishmael finishes tractate Bava Batra, which is indeed the last part of a much longer tractate called Nezikin that has been broken into three parts, Bava Kamma, Bava Metzia and Bava Batra, with a message as to the importance of these laws.  A person who wishes to sharpen his intelligence, should study monetary laws, for the logic and methods of reasoning that stand behind these laws is the greatest in all of Torah study.  And in a final note of concession to Ben Nanos, with whom Rabbi Yishmael has just disagreed, Rabbi Yishmael says that the greatest teacher of the laws concerning money is Shimon ben Nanos himself.  Rabbi Yishmael teaches us two important lessons:  1)  Learning Torah does not only teach us how to live our lives, but through its study we can become more intelligent people.  2)  He teaches us the humility to have the utmost respect even for those with whom we might disagree. 


Questions for Further Thought:

·                      Section one:  Why do you think that a creditor has greater to power to collect when the loan is executed through a document?


Congratulations!  We have finished Bava Batra. 

It is a tradition at this point to thank God for helping us to finish learning the tractate and to commit ourselves to going back and relearning it, so that we may not forget it and so that its lessons will stay with us for all of our lives. 

For those of you who have learned with us the entire tractate, a hearty Yasher Koach (congratulations).  You have accomplished a great deal and you should be proud of yourselves.  Indeed we have now finished together three tractates of Mishnah.  Of course, we have much more to learn.  We will begin Sanhedrin tomorrow!