Bava Batra, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Six

 

Introduction

Mishnah six discusses a loan document that has been erased and one that has been partially repaid.

 

Mishnah Six

1)                     If a man’s debt document was erased, he must have witnesses testify with regards to the loan, and come before the court to make this attestation: “So and so, the son of so and so, his debt document was erased on such and such a day, and so and so and so and so are his witnesses.”

2)                     If a man had paid part of his debt, Rabbi Judah says:  “He should exchange the debt document for a new one.”

a)                                           Rabbi Yose says:  “He should write a receipt.”

b)                                          Rabbi Judah said:  “It turns out that this one (the debtor) will have to guard his receipt from mice.”

c)                                           Rabbi Yose said to him:  “That’s good for him, as long as the rights of the other (the creditor) have not been damaged.

 

Explanation

Section one:  If a creditor’s debt document was damaged, for instance through water, he needs to bring to the court witnesses to testify to the original loan.  The court will then draw up a new document which he will subsequently be able to use to recover his loan.

Section two:  We mentioned in the previous mishnah the problem created when a man pays back part of his loan.  In this mishnah two other solutions are offered.  Rabbi Judah says that a new loan document should be written.  Rabbi Yose says that the creditor should write a receipt.  Rabbi Judah tells Rabbi Yose that the problem with writing a receipt is that the debtor will have to guard it from being eaten by mice.  If the debtor loses the receipt the creditor will be able to fully collect the debt.  (Normally when a person pays back a debt the document would be torn up so that it would not be used again.)  Rabbi Yose says that his solution (writing a receipt) is better because writing a new document will damage the rights of the creditor.  The rights referred to here are the lien that exists on the creditors property.  The lien is effective from the day that is written on the document.  In other words any property owned by the debtor on the day mentioned in the debt document has on it a lien and therefore the creditor could collect that property should the debtor default.  If between the day on which the original document was written and the day of the rewriting, the debtor has lost property, a later date on the document will damage the creditor’s ability to collect on his loan.

 

Questions for Further Thought:

·                      Is there any consistency in the opinions of Rabbi Yose and Rabbi Judah as they appear in this mishnah and in the previous one?

·                      Why is Rabbi Judah concerned that a debtor will lose his receipt but evidently not concerned that a creditor will lose the debt document?

 

 

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