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Friday, 27 Tammuz 5774 / July 25, 2014
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Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

She'elah uFikkadon - Chapter 1

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She'elah uFikkadon - Chapter 1

The Laws of Borrowing and of Entrusted Objects

They contain two positive mitzvot: The first, the laws pertaining to borrowers; and the second, the laws pertaining to an unpaid watchman.

These mitzvot are explained in the chapters that follow.

Halacha 1

When a person borrows utensils, an animal or other movable property from a colleague, and it is lost or stolen, or even if it is destroyed by factors beyond his control - e.g., an animal is injured, taken captive or dies - the borrower is required to make restitution for the entire worth of the article, as stated in Exodus 22:13: "If a person borrows an animal from a colleague and it will become injured or die, and the owner is not with him, he must make financial restitution."

When does the above apply? When the loss due to factors beyond his control does not take place while the borrower is working with the animal. If, however, a person borrows a colleague's animal to plow, and it dies while plowing, the borrower is not liable. If, however, the animal dies before he plowed with it or after he plowed with it, or he rode upon it or threshed with it and the animal died while he was threshing or riding, the borrower is liable to make financial restitution. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

Similarly, if a person borrows an animal to travel to a particular place and the animal dies under him on that journey, he borrows a bucket to fill water with it and it falls apart in the cistern while he is filling it, he borrows a hatchet to split wood and it breaks because of the chopping while he is splitting the wood, he is not liable. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations. The rationale is that he borrowed the article solely to perform this task, and he did not deviate from his original request.

Halacha 2

The following rules apply when a person borrows an animal from a colleague, it dies, and the borrower claims that it died while in the midst of work. If he borrowed it to travel to a place where people are commonly present, he must bring witnesses who testify that it died or it was destroyed by forces beyond his control while he was working with it, and he did not deviate from his original request. He is then freed of liability. If he does not bring proof, he is liable.

Different rules apply when a person borrows an animal to fill up the earth in his ruin, i.e., a place where it is not common for witnesses to be present, or he borrowed a bucket to fill the cistern in his house and the bucket was destroyed in the cistern. If he brings proof that the animal or the object was destroyed in the process of performing the task for which it was borrowed, he is not liable even to take an oath. If he cannot bring proof, he must take the oath required of watchmen that the animal died during the performance of the task for which it was borrowed. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

Halacha 3

When a person borrows a utensil from a colleague and it breaks, the utensil is evaluated in the same way as a utensil one damages is evaluated. We evaluate how much the object was worth while it was complete and how much it is worth in its present state. The borrower returns the broken utensil or the injured animal to the owner and makes financial restitution for the damages.Similarly, if the animal dies, he may return the carcass and make restitution for the animal's decrease in value.

Halacha 4

When a person borrows an animal, he becomes liable to provide it with food from the time he performs meshichah until the conclusion of the time for which he borrowed it. If its meat depreciates in value, he is liable to pay for that reduction. If its meat depreciates in value because of the work the animal performs, he is not liable. He must, however, take the oath required of a watchman, swearing that it depreciated because of the work.

Halacha 5

When a person borrows an article or an animal from a colleague without making any stipulation, the lender may require him to return it at any time. If he borrowed it for a set time, once he performs meshichah with it, he acquires it, and the owner may not compel the borrower to return it from his possession until the conclusion of the period for which it was borrowed. Indeed, even if the borrower dies, his heirs are entitled to continue using the borrowed article until the conclusion of the period for which it was lent out.

This concept can be appreciated by logical deduction. A purchaser acquires the body of the article he purchases forever in return for the money he gave. The recipient of a present acquires the body of the article he receives forever, although he did not give anything. Similarly, a renter acquires the body of an article for the sake of deriving benefit from it for a limited time in return for the money he gave. And a borrower acquires the body of an article for the sake of deriving benefit from it for a limited time without giving anything. Thus, just as the giver of a present resembles a seller in that he cannot retract his gift forever, so too, a person who lends an article resembles one who hires it out, in that he cannot retract in the midst of the term of the agreement.

When a father leaves his sons a cow that he had borrowed and it dies, they are not liable for the loss its owner suffers. If they thought that it belonged to their father and they slaughtered it and ate it, they are required to pay the price of its meat at a low price. If their father left them an estate, and the borrowed cow died or was slaughtered by them, they must pay its worth from the estate.

Halacha 6

When a person borrows a utensil for the sake of performing a particular task, the person who lent it cannot force the borrower to return it from his possession until the borrower performs that task. Similarly, if he borrows an animal in order to travel to a particular place, the owner may not compel the borrower to return it until he goes to that place and returns.

Halacha 7

When a person asks a colleague: "Lend me your spade to hoe this orchard," he is allowed to hoe only that particular orchard. He may not hoe another orchard with it.

If the borrower said: "to hoe an orchard" without describing it further, he may use it to hoe any orchard he desires. If he borrowed it to hoe his orchards, he may hoe all the orchards he owns. Even if the iron of the spade becomes entirely worn away while hoeing, it is sufficient for him to return the wooden handle of the hoe. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

Halacha 8

The following rule applies when a person borrows a utensil from a colleague to use and tells him: "Lend me this item according to your generosity." That expression implies "Don't lend it to me like others who lend out articles, but according to the goodness of your heart and your generosity, that you will not be concerned about the time, even if it becomes extended."

If a kinyan was established with the lender concerning this, the borrower may use the article without limit until it is no longer suitable to perform its function. He must then return its broken pieces or the remnants. The borrower may not, however, fix the utensil and thus make it useful again.

Halacha 9

When a person asks a colleague: "Lend me this stone tub of water," and it was destroyed, he may not rebuild it. If the borrower asks the owner: "Lend me a stone tub," without any description, and it is destroyed, he may rebuild it.

If he asked him: "Lend me the place of a stone tub," if a kinyan was established affirming this agreement, the borrower may build on the property of the lender until he constructs a stone tub that he may use to water his animal or irrigate his land, as he stipulated when speaking to the lender.

Halacha 10

When a person borrows an inn from a colleague "to spend the night," the intent is no less than one day. "To spend the Sabbath," the intent is no less than two days. "For marriage," the intent is no less than 30 days.

When a person borrows a garment from a colleague to visit a person in mourning, he may keep it for the time it takes to go and return. When a person borrows a garment to attend a wedding celebration, he may keep it for that entire day. If he borrows it for his own wedding, he may keep it for at least seven days.

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