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Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Shemita - Chapter 9, Shemita - Chapter 10, Shemita - Chapter 11

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Shemita - Chapter 9

1

It is a positive commandment1 to nullify a loan in the Sabbatical year, as [Deuteronomy 15:2] states: "All of those who bear debt must release their hold." A person who demands payment of a debt after the Sabbatical year passed2 violates a negative commandment,3 as it is stated [ibid.]: "One shall not demand [payment] from his friend and his brother."

א

מצות עשה להשמיט המלוה בשביעית שנאמר שמוט כל בעל משה ידו והתובע חוב שעברה עליו שביעית עבר על לא תעשה שנאמר לא יגוש את רעהו ואת אחיו:

2

The nullification of debts applies according to Scriptural Law only in the era when the Jubilee year is observed4 and [the sale of] land is also nullified, for the land [that has been sold] returns to its original owners without financial payment.5 This matter was conveyed through the chain of tradition. Our Sages declared:6 In the era when you nullify [the sale of] land, you nullify debts everywhere, whether in Eretz Yisrael or in the Diaspora. In the era when you do not nullify [the sale of] land, you do not nullify debts anywhere, even in Eretz Yisrael.

ב

אין שמיטת כספים נוהגת מן התורה אלא בזמן שהיובל נוהג שיש שם שמיטת קרקע שהרי ישוב הקרקע לבעליו בלא כסף ודבר זה קבלה הוא אמרו חכמים בזמן שאתה משמיט קרקע אתה משמיט כספים בכל מקום בין בארץ בין בחוצה לארץ ובזמן שאין שם שמיטת קרקע אין אתה משמיט כספים בשביעית אפילו בארץ:

3

According to Rabbinic Law, the nullification of debts applies in the present age in all places,7 even though the Jubilee year is not observed.8 [This is a decree, instituted] so that the concept of the nullification of debts will not be forgotten by the Jewish people.

ג

ומדברי סופרים שתהא שמיטת כספים נוהגת בזמן הזה בכ"מ ואע"פ שאין היובל נוהג כדי שלא תשתכח תורת שמיטת הכספים מישראל:

4

The Sabbatical year does not nullify debts until its conclusion. [This is derived as follows: Deuteronomy 15:1-2] states: "At the end of seven years, you shall effect a remission. This is the matter of the remission." And [Deuteronomy 31:10] states:9 "At the end of seven years, at the time of the Sabbatical year, during the holiday of Sukkot." Just as in that instance, [the event takes place] after the seven [years], so too, the nullification of the debts takes place after the seven [years].

Therefore if one lent money to a colleague in the Sabbatical year itself, he may demand payment of his debt for the entire year.10 When the sun sets on the night of Rosh HaShanah of the eighth year,11 the debt is nullified.12

ד

אין שביעית משמטת כספים אלא בסופה שנאמר מקץ שבע שנים תעשה שמטה וזה דבר השמטה ושם הוא אומר מקץ שבע שנים במועד שנת השמטה בחג הסוכות מה שם אחר שבע אף השמטת כספים אחר שבע לפיכך הלוה את חבירו בשביעית עצמה גובה חובו כל השנה וכשתשקע חמה בלילי ראש השנה של מוצאי שביעית אבד החוב:

5

If one slaughtered a cow and divided it13 under the supposition that today would be [declared as] Rosh HaShanah,14 but instead, a day was added to Elul and thus that day was the final day of the Sabbatical year, the money is lost, for the Sabbatical year ended while the debt was extant.15

ה

שחט את הפרה וחלקה על דעת שהיום ר"ה של מוצאי שביעית ונתעבר אלול ונמצא אותו היום סוף שביעית אבדו הדמים שהרי עברה שביעית על החוב:

6

The Sabbatical year nullifies a loan, even a loan supported by a promissory note which creates a lien on one's possessions.16 If, however, the borrower designated a field [to serve as payment] for the loan, it is not nullified.17 The Sabbatical year also nullifies the obligation to take an oath,18 for [the prooftext] states: "He shall not demand," i.e., neither payment, nor an oath.

ו

שביעית משמטת את המלוה ואפילו מלוה שבשטר שיש בו אחריות נכסים ה"ז משמיט ואם סיים לו שדה בהלואתו אינו משמיט והשביעית משמטת את השבועה שנאמר לא יגוש מ"מ לא לשלם ולא להשבע:

7

When does the above apply? With regard to an oath imposed by the judges19and the like, i.e., obligations that were he to accept them, the Sabbatical year would nullify them. But oaths taken by watchmen or partners20 and the like, i.e., oaths that were he to admit [the obligation], he would be required to pay [after the Sabbatical year],21 he is required to take the oath after the Sabbatical year.

ז

במה דברים אמורים בשבועת הדיינין וכל כיוצא בה מדברים שאם יודה בהן שביעית משמטתן אבל שבועת השומרין והשותפין וכיוצא בהן משבועות שאם יודה ישלם ה"ז ישבע אחר השמטה:

8

If a person gave a colleague a loan and then demanded payment, [the colleague] denied the obligation and remained in denial when [the conclusion of] the Sabbatical year arrived and then he admitted his obligation or witnesses came [and testified to that effect] after the Sabbatical year [was concluded], the obligation is not nullified.22

ח

הלוהו ותבעו וכפר בו והגיע השמטה והוא בכפירתו והודה אחר שעברה שביעית או שבאו עליו עדים אחר השביעית אין השביעית משמטת:

9

When a person lends money to a colleague and sets [the time of payment] in ten years time, it is not nullified [by the Sabbatical year. The rationale is that] although [ultimately, the command,] "Do not demand [payment]" will apply,23 at present, he may not demand payment.24 If he stipulated that he would not demand payment, [the debt] is nullified by the Sabbatical year.25

ט

המלוה את חבירו וקבע לו זמן לעשר שנים אינו משמט אף ע"פ שהוא בא לידי לא יגוש הרי הוא עתה אינו יכול לנגוש התנה עמו שלא יתבענו שביעית משמטת:

10

When a person lends money to a colleague and he stipulates with [the borrower] that [the debt] will not be nullified by the Sabbatical year, it is nullified, for he cannot negate the law of the Sabbatical year.26 If [the borrower] stipulates that he will not nullify this debt, even in the Sabbatical year, the stipulation is binding, for any stipulation made regarding financial matters is binding. Thus this person took on a financial obligation which the Torah did not obligate him in.27

י

המלוה את חבירו והתנה עמו שלא תשמטנו שביעית ה"ז נשמט שאינו יכול לבטל דין השביעית התנה עמו שלא ישמיט הוא חוב זה ואפילו בשביעית תנאו קיים שכל תנאי שבממון קיים ונמצא זה חייב עצמו בממון שלא חייבתו תורה שהוא חייב:

11

An account at a store is not nullified by the Sabbatical year.28 If it is established as a debt,29 it is nullified.30 The wage of a worker is not nullified.31 If it is considered as a debt, it is nullified.

יא

הקפת החנות אינה נשמטת ואם עשאה מלוה נשמטת שכר שכיר אינו נשמט ואם זקפו עליו במלוה נשמט:

12

The fines for a rapist,32 a seducer33 and one who spreads a slanderous report [about his wife]34 are not nullified by the Sabbatical year.35 If they are considered as debts,36 they are nullified. When are they considered as a debt? When the matter was brought to court.

יב

קנסות של אונס ושל מפתה והמוציא שם רע אינם נשמטין ואם זקפן במלוה נשמטים ומאימתי נזקפין במלוה משעת העמדה בדין:

13

When a person divorces his wife before the Sabbatical year, [his obligations to her by virtue of] her ketubah37 are not nullified by the Sabbatical year.38 If she impaired the legal power [of her ketubah]39 or considered it as a debt, it can be nullified.

יג

המגרש את אשתו קודם השמטה אין כתובתה נשמטת ואם פגמתה או זקפתה עליו במלוה נשמטת:

14

When a person lends money in exchange for security, the debt is not nullified by the Sabbatical year,40 provided the security is equal in value to the debt. If the debt exceeds the value of the security, the extra amount is nullified by the Sabbatical year.41

יד

המלוה על המשכון אינו משמיט והוא שיהיה החוב כנגד המשכון ואם היה יתר משמיט היתר:

15

When a person hands over42 his promissory notes to the court, telling [the judges]: "Collect my debt for me," the debts are not nullified by the Sabbatical year. [This is derived from Deuteronomy 15:3]: "[a debt] that you have from your brother."[Implied is that debts demanded by "your brother," a private individual, are nullified by the Sabbatical year. [Payment for] these [debts, by contrast,] is being demanded by the court.

Similarly, if the court rendered a judgment, writing: "So-and-so, you are obligated to give this person this-and-this amount," [the debt] is not nullified. Such [a debt] is considered as if it has already been collected and entered [the creditor's] possession. It does not resemble a loan.

טו

המוסר שטרותיו לבית דין ואמר להם אתם גבו לי חובי זה אינו נשמט שנאמר ואשר יהיה לך את אחיך וזה בית דין תובעין אותו וכן ב"ד שחתכו את הדין וכתבו איש פלוני אתה חייב ליתן לזה כך וכך אינו נשמט שזה כגבוי הוא וכאילו בא לידו ואינו כמלוה:

16

When Hillel the Elder saw that the people would refrain from lending to each other and thus violated the Scriptural charge [Deuteronomy 15:9]: "Lest there be a wicked thought in your heart,"43 he ordained a pruzbol44 so that debts would not be nullified and people would lend to each other.

A pruzbol is effective only with regard to the nullification of debts in the present era which are a Rabbinic institution.45 A pruzbol is not effective with regard to the nullification of debts by Scriptural Law.46

טז

כשראה הלל הזקן שנמנעו מלהלוות זה את זה ועוברין על הכתוב בתורה השמר לך פן יהיה דבר וגו' התקין פרוזבול כדי שלא ישמט החוב עד שילוו זה את זה ואין הפרוזבול מועיל אלא בשמטת כספים בזמן הזה שהיא מדברי סופרים אבל שמטה של תורה אין הפרוזבול מועיל בה:

17

A pruzbol should be composed only by very great Sages like the court of Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Assi,47 for they are suitable to release financial [obligations due] others.48 Other courts [of lesser authority] may not compose [a pruzbol].49

יז

אין כותבין פרוזבול אלא חכמים גדולים ביותר כבית דינו של רבי אמי ורבי אסי שהן ראויין להפקיע ממון בני אדם אבל שאר בתי דינין אין כותבין:

18

This represents the body of a pruzbol: "I am notifying you,50so-and-so and so-and so51 the judges in this-and-this places, [that I reserve the right] to collect all the debts [owed] to me52 at any time I desire."53 The judges or the witnesses should sign below.54

יח

זהו גופו של פרוזבול מוסרני לכם פלוני ופלוני הדיינין שבמקום פלוני שכל חוב שיש לי שאגבנו כל זמן שארצה והדיינין או העדים חותמין מלמטה:

19

A pruzbol may be composed only when [the borrower possesses] land.55 If the borrower does not possess land, the lender should grant56 the borrower even the slightest amount of land - even enough to grow a cabbage stalk57- in his field. [Even if] he lent him place for an oven or a range, a pruzbol may be composed.58 If [the borrower] owns a field that was given as security, a pruzbol may be composed on that basis.

יט

אין כותבין פרוזבול אלא על הקרקע אם אין קרקע ללוה מוכר לו המלוה כל שהוא בתוך שדהו אפילו קלח של כרוב השאילו מקום לתנור או לכירה כותבין עליו פרוזבול היתה לו שדה ממושכנת כותבין עליה פרוזבול:

20

[A pruzbol] may be composed against a man59 based on property owned by his wife60 or against orphans on property owned by their guardian.61 If [the borrower] does not possess land, but the guarantor does, we can compose a pruzbol because of it.62 If [a borrower] is owed a debt by a colleague and the colleague owns land - since that land is on lien [to the first borrower] - we may compose a pruzbol because of it.

כ

כותבין לאיש על נכסי אשתו וליתומים על נכסי אפטרופוס אין לו קרקע ולערב יש לו קרקע כותבין עליה פרוזבול היה לו חוב על חבירו ויש לחבירו קרקע הואיל והוא תחת שיעבודו כותב עליו פרוזבול:

21

When one person borrows from five others, each one must have a pruzbol composed.63 When five people borrow from one, one pruzbol is sufficient for him for all the debts.64

כא

אחד שלוה מחמשה צריכים פרוזבול לכל אחד וא' וחמשה שלוו מאחד דיו פרוזבול אחד לכולן:

22

When a person has a pruzbol composed and then he makes a loan, it is not effective. Instead, the loan will be nullified unless he composes [another] pruzbol after giving the loan. Thus one can conclude that any loan which precedes a pruzbol is not nullified because of this pruzbol. If the pruzbol precedes the loan, it is nullified [despite] this pruzbol.65

כב

כתב הפרוזבול תחלה ואחר כך הלוה אינו מועיל אלא משמיט עד שיכתוב הפרוזבול אחר שהלוה נמצאת אומר שכל מלוה הקודמת לפרוזבול אינה נשמטת בפרוזבול זה ואם הפרוזבול קודם למלוה נשמטת בפרוזבול זה:

23

Accordingly, a pruzbol that is predated is valid, while one that is postdated, is invalid.

What is implied? One wrote a pruzbol in Nissan and predated it to Adar, it is valid, for he has impaired its legal power, for [only the loans given] until Adar are not nullified.66 If, however, he postdated it and dated it in Iyar, it is invalid, for he has strengthened its legal power, for [were it to be effective] the loans given until Iyar would not be nullified. This is unlawful, because it is only [the loans given] until Nissan that are not nullified, for that [is when] the matters were conveyed to the court.

כג

לפיכך פרוזבול המוקדם כשר והמאוחר פסול כיצד כתבו בניסן והקדים זמנו מאדר כשר שהרי הורע כחו שאינו משמיט אלא עד אדר אבל אם איחר זמנו וכתבו מאייר פסול שהרי מייפה כחו שאינו משמיט עד אייר שלא כדין שאין דינו שלא ישמיט אלא עד ניסן בשעת מסירת הדברים לבית דין:

24

When a person produces a promissory note after the Sabbatical year without it being accompanied by a pruzbol, the debt is lost.67 If he says: "I possessed [a pruzbol] and it was lost, his word is accepted.68 For from the time of the danger69 onward,70 a creditor was allowed to collect his debt [after the Sabbatical year] without a pruzbol.

Moreover, when a creditor would bring the promissory note [to court] or would come and demand payment of a loan supported by a verbal commitment [alone], [the court] tells the defendant: "Pay him." If the defendant claims: "Where is his pruzbol?", the court asks the plaintiff: "Did you have a pruzbol that was lost?" If he answers affirmatively, his word is accepted.71 If he admits that he did not have a pruzbol, the debt is nullified.

Orphans72 do not require a pruzbol.73

כד

המוציא שטר חוב אחר שביעית ואין עמו פרוזבול אבד חובו ואם אמר היה לי ואבד נאמן שמזמן הסכנה ואילך בעל חוב גובה שלא בפרוזבול ולא עוד אלא כשיביא בעל חוב את שטרו או כשיבוא לתבוע במלוה על פה אומרים לנתבע שלם לו ואם טען הנתבע ואמר איה פרוזבול שלו אומרים לתובע היה לך פרוזבול ואבד אם אמר הן נאמן ואם הודה שלא כתב פרוזבול אבד חובו והיתומים אינן צריכין פרוזבול:

25

[When the plaintiff] produces a pruzbol, the defendant claims: "The loan for which he is demanding payment was made after the pruzbol,"74 and the plaintiff retorts: "It was made before the pruzbol," the plaintiff's word is accepted. [The rationale is] were he to have claimed: "I had [a pruzbol] and it was lost," his word would have been accepted75 even though we do not know the date of the pruzbol that was lost.

כה

הוציא פרוזבול וטען הנתבע ואמר מלוה זו שהוא תובע אחר פרוזבול זה היתה והתובע אומר קודם פרוזבול היתה התובע נאמן שאילו אמר היה לי ואבד נאמן ואף ע"פ שאין אנו יודעין זמן הפרוזבול שאבד:

26

If the defendant claims: "I owe him a debt," and the plaintiff states: "No, it is an account from a store which is not nullified [by the Sabbatical year], because I have not yet considered it as a loan,"76 his word is accepted, for were he to desire,77he could say: "It was a loan, but I had a pruzbol and it was lost." [Leniency is granted in these instances,] because once the Sages instituted [the concept of] pruzbol, we operate under the assumption that a person will not forgo something permitted78 and partake of something that is forbidden.79

כו

טען הנתבע ואמר מלוה יש לו אצלי והתובע אומר לא כי אלא הקפת חנות היא שאינה נשמטת שהרי לא זקפתי מלוה ה"ז נאמן שהרי אם ירצה יאמר מלוה היתה ופרוזבול היה לי ואבד שכיון שתקנו חכמים פרוזבול חזקה היא שאין אדם מניח דבר מותר ואוכל דבר אסור:

27

When Torah Sages offer loans to each other80 and one conveys his words to his students,81 saying: "I am notifying you [that I reserve the right] to collect all the debts [owed] to me at any time I desire," he does not have to compose a pruzbol.82 [The rationale is that Torah scholars] know that the nullification of debts in the present era is a Rabbinic decree and it can be negated verbally.

כז

תלמידי חכמים שהלוו זה את זה ומסר דבריו לתלמידים ואמר מוסרני לכם שכל חוב שיש לי שאגבנו כל זמן שארצה אינו צריך לכתוב פרוזבול מפני שהן יודעים שהשמטת כספים בזמן הזה מדבריהם ובדברים בלבד היא נדחית:

28

[Whenever] anyone returns a debt [despite the fact] that the Sabbatical year has passed,83 the spirits of our Sages are gratified because of him.84 [When receiving the payment,] the lender must say to the one who is making restitution: "I am nullifying [the debt] and your [obligation] to me has been released."85 If the debtor says: "Nevertheless, I desire that you accept it," he should accept it. For the Torah states: "One shall not demand [payment]," and payment was not demanded.86

[The debtor] should not tell [the creditor]: "I am giving them to you as [payment of ] my debt. Instead, he should tell him: "[The money] is mine,87 and I am giving it to you as a present."

כח

כל המחזיר חוב שעברה עליו שביעית רוח חכמים נוחה הימנו וצריך המלוה לומר למחזיר משמיט אני וכבר נפטרת ממני אמר לו אעפ"כ רצוני שתקבל יקבל ממנו שנאמר לא יגוש והרי לא נגש ואל יאמר לו בחובי אני נותן לך אלא יאמר לו שלי הם ובמתנה אני נותן לך:

29

If [a debtor] returned a debt, but did not make the above statements, [the lender] should turn the conversation to the point where the debtor says: "[The money] is mine, and I am giving it to you as a present." If [the debtor] does not make such statements, [the creditor] should not accept it from him.88 Instead, [the debtor] should take his money and depart.

כט

החזיר לו חובו ולא אמר לו כן מסבב עמו בדברים עד שיאמר לו שלי הם ובמתנה נתתים לך ואם לא אמר לא יקבל ממנו אלא יטול מעותיו וילך לו:

30

One who refrains from lending money to a colleague before the Sabbatical year lest [the repayment] of the debt be delayed and it be nullified, violates a negative commandment, 89 as [Deuteronomy 15:9] states: "Be careful [lest there be a wicked thought in your heart....]" It is a severe sin, for the Torah warned against it with two adjurations, for it is written: "Be careful lest," and whenever the Torah uses the expressions "Be careful," "lest," or "Do not," it is communicating a negative commandment.90 The Torah objected to this evil thought and called it "wicked" and the the verse continued warning and commanding one not to refraining [from lending], but to give [the loan], as [ibid.:10] states: "You shall certainly give him and your Heart should not regret giving him." [Indeed,] the Holy One, blessed be He, promised that the reward for this mitzvah will be granted in this world,91 as [the verse continues:] "Because of this God will bless you."

ל

מי שנמנע מלהלוות את חבירו קודם השמיטה שמא יתאחר החוב שלו וישמט עבר בלא תעשה שנאמר השמר לך וגו' וחטא גדול הוא שהרי הזהירה עליו תורה בשני לאוין שנאמר השמר לך פן וגו' וכל מקום שנאמר השמר או פן או אל הרי זה מצות לא תעשה והתורה הקפידה על מחשבה רעה זו וקראתו בליעל והרי הוסיף הכתוב להזהיר ולצוות שלא ימנע אלא יתן שנאמר נתן תתן לו ולא ירע לבבך בתתך לו וגו' והבטיח הקב"ה בשכר מצוה זו בעולם הזה שנאמר כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך וגו':

Footnotes
1.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 141) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 477) includes this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. The Rambam's wording implies that the nullification of the debt comes as a result of the person's action. It is not automatically nullified at the conclusion of the seventh year. For that reason, the Rambam states in Halachah 28, when a person comes to pay a debt after the conclusion of the seventh, the creditor must say that he is nullifying the debt (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. XVII, p. 289ff.).

2.

For, according to the Rambam, the debt is not nullified until the conclusion of the Sabbatical year (Halachah 4).

3.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 230) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 475) include this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

4.

As stated in Chapter 10, Halachah 9, after the exile of the tribes of Reuven and Gad, the laws of the Jubilee year no longer applied according to Scriptural Law.

5.

See Chapter 10, Halachot 13, 15, for details regarding this concept.

6.

Gittin 36a.

7.

I.e., according to the Rambam's interpretation of Gittin, loc. cit., the nullification of debts applies in the present era, even in the Diaspora. His view is accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 67:1). In his gloss to that text, the Rama quotes different opinions among the Ashkenazic authorities. Some maintain that the Rabbis did not ordain the observance of this law in the present age. Others maintain that it should be observed as a custom. Significantly, the Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchot Halvaah 34, follows the Rambam's view.

8.

I.e., even according to Rabbinic Law (see Tosafot, Gittin, loc. cit.).

9.

With regard to the Hakhel ceremony. The interrelation of these verses has its source in the Sifri.

10.

According to other authorities, although the debt is not remitted until the end of the Sabbatical year, from the beginning of the Sabbatical year, the creditor is forbidden to demand payment. See Shulchan Aruch HaRav, loc. cit. 36.

11.

I.e., the sunset marking the advent of Rosh HaShanah.

12.

Because it is forbidden to demand its payment (Likkutei Sichot, loc. cit.).

13.

Since the people considered the day as a festival, the recipients of the meat could not pay for it in an ordinary manner. Hence they promised to pay for their shares later, considering the money as a debt [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 10:2)].

14.

When the laws of the annulment of debts would no longer apply. The Rambam is speaking about a situation that could have occurred in the time the new month was sanctified based on the testimony of witnesses (in contrast to the present era, when we follow a fixed calendar). In that era as well, the court had a presupposition of the day when Rosh HaShanah would fall and the people celebrated it as a holiday in anticipation of its sanctification. Nevertheless, the moon was not actually sanctified - and thus the holiday officially declared as such - unless witnesses came. Now it was possible, especially if the night was cloudy, that witnesses did not see the moon and hence could not go to the court to give testimony. Hence the day could not be declared as Rosh HaShanah.

15.

The Ra'avad questions the Rambam's ruling, based on the principle (stated in Halachah 11), that a debt stemming from money owed on account to a grocer is not nullified at the end of the Sabbatical year. Indeed, the source for this law (the Jerusalem Talmud, Sh'vi'it 10:1) states that it follows the opinion that maintains that such an account is nullified by the Sabbatical year. The Radbaz, however, explains that the situations are not identical. For it is common practice for a grocer to sell on account. A butcher, by contrast, expects immediate payment. A similar distinction is suggested by the Kessef Mishneh.

16.

I.e., once a loan is recorded in a promissory note, in the event the debtor does not pay, the creditor can use the promissory note to collect the debt from the landed property belonging to the debtor at the time of the loan (even if it was subsequently sold to others). Since the property is on lien, one might think that the situation is comparable to a loan supported by security (Halachah 14), which is not nullified by the Sabbatical year. That law, however, does not apply in the present instance, because although the lien applies to the debtor's property, it is not associated with a specific property.

17.

Since the land has been designated as payment, it is as if the loan has already been paid.

18.

For example, a person claimed that a colleague owed him 100 zuz and the colleague admitted only to owing 50. In such an instance, the colleague is required to take an oath regarding the other 50 zuz. If he fails to take the oath before the conclusion of the Sabbatical year, that obligation is nullified.

19.

This is a specific term that, as explained in Hilchot Sh'vuot 11:5-6, refers to oaths administered because of the denial of a specific and definite claim that would create a monetary obligation were the defendant to have admitted to it.

20.

See Hilchot Sh'vuot, loc. cit., which explains that these individuals can be compelled to take an oath even though the plaintiff does not have a definite claim against them.

21.

With regard to a watchman, the explanation is that - unlike a loan - the property being watched is considered as always being in the possession of the owner. Hence, the obligation for it is not nullified by the Sabbatical year (see Radbaz). A partner is considered as a watchman (Bava Batra 42b).

22.

The rationale is that the obligation was not firmly established before the conclusion of the Sabbatical year, for until the borrower's admission of the debt or the substantiation of the claim by witnesses, the creditor cannot press for payment in a court of law. Hence, the end of the year does not lead to the nullification of the debt. See the Jerusalem Talmud (Sh'vi'it 10:1). The Ra'avad objects to the Rambam's ruling, but it is supported by the Radbaz and the Kessef Mishneh and quoted by the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 67:7). Nevertheless, the Shulchan Aruch does add to the Rambam's wording the concept that the debtor took an oath to support his denial. In his gloss to the Tur, the Darkei Moshe explains that addition, stating that unless the debtor has taken an oath to support his denial, then we are speaking of an ordinary loan and the conclusion of the Sabbatical year nullifies both the loan and the obligation of an oath to support one's denial, as stated in Halachah 6.

23.

For in ten years time, he will demand payment of the debt.

24.

For the loan has not become due. And as long as there is no payment demanded, the debt is not nullified, for the Sabbatical year only nullifies a debt for which payment is called for (the Responsa of Rabbenu Asher, sec. 86).

25.

The Radbaz and Rav Yosef Corcus explain that even though the collector has promised not to demand payment of the debt, since there is a payment date before the end of the Sabbatical year, the borrower is under obligation to pay. Hence, it is as if payment is being demanded from him.

26.

This is a general principle, applicable in many contexts. Whenever a person establishes a stipulation that runs contrary to the Torah's laws, his stipulation is nullified. For the Torah is not given over to man's will and no mortal can bend it to fit his whims (see Makkot 3b; Hilchot Ishut 6:9).

27.

The difference between this clause and the previous one can be explained as follows: In the previous instance, the person was attempting to postulate that the Torah's laws should not apply. This is not within a mortal's power. In the second clause, by contrast, the person is saying that although the laws of the Sabbatical Law do apply, he asks the borrower to accept an obligation even though the Torah releases him from it. Torah Law does not prevent him from accepting such an obligation. See the parallels in Hilchot Mechirah 11:15.

See also the comments of Beit Yosef (Choshen Mishpat 67), that one is permitted to make such a stipulation. It is not merely that, after the fact, one is bound by it.

Based on this principle, the Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchot Halva'ah:35 draws the following conclusion:

At present, in these countries, it is not customary [to employ] a pruzbol. [Some] have explained the custom [as follows]: Since it has become customary to collect all debts after the Sabbatical year, even without a pruzbol, and the borrower knows of this practice, it is as if the lender made a stipulation at the time of the loan that [the loan was being given] on condition that the borrower never nullify this debt, even in the Sabbatical year. Thus [the borrower] made himself liable for a financial obligation not required of him by the Torah in which instance, his stipulation is binding and he is obligated according to Scriptural Law.

Nevertheless, that text continues, stating that "any G‑d-fearing person will be stringent with regard to his own conduct and make a pruzbol, [for] it is something that does not involve a loss and is easy to arrange."

28.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 10:1), the Rambam explains that until a summary of an account is made, it is not considered as a debt. Instead, the seller trusts the purchaser and is willing to wait for payment. Thus all of the different transactions are considered as one sale. The Kessef Mishneh explains that since it is not customary for the seller to demand payment of such accounts, the account is not bound by the prohibition: "Do not demand payment." Hence, the mitzvah to nullify the obligation also does not apply.

Similar concepts are reflected in the treatment of the subject by Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchot Halva'ah, subsec. 39, which states: "Since a storekeeper usually extends credit for a year or two and it is unusual for him to demand payment immediately, it is as if he set a time for payment after the Sabbatical year."

29.

The Rama (Choshen Mishpat 67:14 offers two explanations for "establish[ing it] as a debt":

a) setting a time for payment;

b) totaling up the account to arrive at a sum.

30.

For in such an instance, it is no different than any other debt.

31.

Here also the Kessef Mishneh explains that since it is not common for a worker to demand payment of his wages immediately, until he does so, they are not considered as a debt.

32.

See Deuteronomy 22:28-29, Hilchot Na'arah, ch. 1.

33.

See Exodus 22:15-16, Hilchot Na'arah, ch. 1.

34.

See Deuteronomy 22:13-21, Hilchot Na'arah, ch. 3.

35.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 10:2, the Rambam explains that debts are obligations which a person accepts upon himself. Hence they can be nullified. These obligations, by contrast, are penalties imposed upon the transgressor by God. Hence, he cannot absolve himself from them unless he makes payment.

The Kessef Mishneh questions this explanation, for the Torah also requires a person to satisfy the monetary obligations he takes upon himself. He therefore explains that the intent is that since these penalties are written in the Torah, it is as the debts were handed over to the court in which instance, they are not nullified by the Sabbatical year, as stated in Halachah 15.

Rambam LeAm explains the difference between the two on the basis between the distinction between mamon, a financial obligation between men, which a man can release, and k'nas, a penalty required by God from the transgressor that although paid to the person violated is not an obligation to him.

36.

The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 67:16) defines "establish[ing] as a debt" as calling the defendant to court. Sefer Meirat Einayim 67:31 emphasizes that once the court's decision is written up, it is considered as if the debt has been handed over to the court.

37.

The money he agrees to pay in the event of a divorce (or which his estate must pay in the event of his death).

38.

Since the obligation need not be paid until the woman demands payment, it is not considered as a debt that could be nullified by the Sabbatical year.

39.

I.e., she admitted that a certain portion of the money owed her had already been paid. See Hilchot Ishut 16:14.

40.

Kiddushin 9b states: "A creditor acquires the security given him." Thus when the loan is given in return for security, it is as if he transferred ownership of the security for the loan until it is repaid [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 9:2)]. Thus it is as if there is no outstanding obligation for the Sabbatical year to nullify.

41.

For this amount is not in his possession. The Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit.) quote other opinions which do not accept this view and maintain that this portion of the debt is not nullified. In his Kessef Mishneh, however, Rav Yosef Caro elaborates in support of the Rambam's position.

42.

Giving them the actual promissory note, not merely assigning it to them (Rav Yosef Corcus, explaining why this is acceptable according to Scriptural Law, while a pruzbol is merely a Rabbinic institution).

43.

The verse continues: "The Sabbatical year is drawing near and you will look negatively at your brother and refrain from giving him." See Halachah 30 which discusses this charge.

44.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 10:3), the Rambam cites the interpretation of this term in Gittin 37a: "the amendment of a matter."

45.

As stated in Halachah 2, the nullification of debts in the present era is a Rabbinic injunction. And since it is a Rabbinic institution, Hillel and his court had the power to institute a provision to reduce its application. Were it to have the power of a Scriptural Law, the Rabbis would not be able to institute such a provision.

46.

The Ra'avad differs with this concept, explaining that it applies even when the Sabbatical Law is observed according to Scriptural Law. The difference between the two authorities reflects a difference between the two Talmudic Sages, Abbaye and Rava, the Rambam follows Abbaye's understanding and the Ra'avad that of Rava. This, however, is slightly problematic, for the Bava Metzia 22b states that, with the exception of six specific instances, whenever there is a difference of opinion between these two Sages, the halachah follows Rava's understanding.

The Radbaz explains the Rambam's viewpoint, stating that our Sages' preference for Rava's position applies only when these Sages are arguing concerning their own logical conclusions. When, by contrast, they are arguing about the interpretation of another Sages' position as in the present instance, the halachah can follow Abaye's view.

47.

They were the heads of the leading courts in Eretz Yisrael shortly at the beginning of the post-Mishnaic era. Similarly, the court composing a pruzbol must be one of the leading courts in its region and in its era (Radbaz, Kessef Mishneh).

48.

Gittin 36b explains that the institution of a pruzbol depends on the principle hefker beit din, hefker; "When the Jewish court absolves a person's ownership, the absolution is binding." As proof of this principle, it cites examples of actions taken by Ezra the Scribe and Joshua. The Rambam understands the Talmud to be saying that even when a financial obligation is Rabbinic in origin, to absolve it, one must have authority comparable to that of Ezra and Joshua. (Significantly, in Hilchot Sanhedrin 24:6 - where the Rambam describes the above principle - and in Hilchot Nachalot 6:12 - where he shows another application of it - he does not state that the courts involved must be made up of judges of unique distinction.)

49.

The Tur (Choshen Mishpat 67) does not accept the Rambam's ruling and maintains that a pruzbol may be composed by any court. The Ramah (loc. cit.:18) states that this leniency can be accepted. Note also the contrast between this law and Halachah 27.

50.

Our translation is taken from the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 10:4).

51.

The Rambam is quoting the wording of the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 10:4). Although Rabbenu Nissim interprets this to mean that the Rambam accepts the view (Gittin 33a) that two judges are sufficient to compose a pruzbol, most authorities require that there be at least three judges on a court which officiates over a pruzbol, as indicated by the statement of the law in the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 67:19).

52.

The creditor is not transferring the actual promissory note to the court - in which instance a pruzbol would not be necessary, as stated in Halachah 15. Instead, he is making a formal notification of the matter to the court. See Sefer Meirat Einayim 67:39.

53.

I.e., even after the Sabbatical year passes.

54.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (loc. cit.), the Rambam writes that this wording teaches us that a judge may also serve as a witness. This is not allowed in questions involving Scriptural Law, but in questions involving Rabbinic Law, leniency is granted.

55.

The rationale is that when the borrower possesses land, the creditor's debt is secured, because he may expropriate the land in payment (Radbaz). Even though the land does not appear to be worth the full value of the debt, we follow the principle (see Hilchot Mechirah 13:8) that the land may never be considered overpriced (Sefer Meirat Einayim 67:41).

56.

Our text follows the manuscript copies and early printings of the Mishneh Torah. The standard printed text reads slightly differently.

The lender may transfer this property to the borrower without his knowledge, but not against his will [Shulchan Aruch and Ramah (Choshen Mishpat 67:22)].

57.

Even if he possesses only a flowerpot with a hole in it.

58.

Since the borrower is entitled to use the land, he is considered to have sufficient rights to it to enable a pruzbol to be written.

59.

I.e., the man referred to here is the borrower.

60.

Since he is entitled to the benefit from this property, it can be used for a pruzbol.

61.

I.e., when a guardian took out a loan for the sake of orphans, if the guardian possesses land a pruzbol can be composed because the guardian is considered like a guarantor.

62.

Because ultimately, the guarantor's property is also on lien to the loan.

63.

For each one must entrust his debt to the court.

64.

For in the one pruzbol, he entrusts all of his debts to the court.

65.

This halachah, based on Sh'vi'it 10:5, was the subject of much review and rethinking within the Rambam's own mind. He rewrote his commentary to this mishnah four times, each time, changing his thought somewhat.

At first, he wrote that only a pruzbol written before a loan prevents it from being nullified. Once a loan has already been given, the laws of the Sabbatical year apply to it, and a pruzbol cannot nullify it. It was not until his second revision of his commentary that he changed it, amending it to read like his conclusion in the text above.

66.

Since that is the date on the pruzbol, its legal power takes effect from that date even though it was written later and it could have included the loans that were given until the date when it was actually composed.

67.

For it is nullified by the Sabbatical year.

68.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Ketubot 9:7), the Rambam explains that the lender's word is accepted based on the principle that a person will not sin when he could achieve the same result in a permitted manner (Gittin 37b). Since he could easily preserve the debt by composing a pruzbol, we assume that he did so rather than transgress the prohibitions of the Sabbatical year, as stated in Halachah 26.

69.

I.e., in the Talmudic era, the Roman's passed many decrees with the intent of stamping out the observance of the mitzvot. One of them was a prohibition to make a pruzbol (for by doing so, they would undermine the observance of the Sabbatical year). Failure to observe these decrees led to very severe punishment. In fear, many people would compose a pruzbol so that they could collect their debts, but destroy it lest it cause them danger (Kessef Mishneh).

70.

The Kessef Mishneh explains that even though the danger passed, the Rabbis never rescinded the leniency granted to allow for a uniformity in Jewish practice.

71.

Gittin, loc. cit. explains that this is like "opening the mouth of the dumb," i.e., offering support to a litigant to enable him to collect what is due him.

72.

Below the age of majority [Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 67:28)].

73.

The Radbaz cites (Gittin 37a) which states that the Jewish court is considered as "the father of the orphans" and we assume that they do not want to impose Rabbinic decrees in a situation that will harm the orphan's interests. This applies both to loans that they themselves made or that their father made and which are due to his estate (Sefer Meirat Einayim 67:50).

74.

And thus the loan would be nullified by the Sabbatical year, as stated in Halachah 22.

75.

Based on the principle of migo, i.e., had he desired to lie, he would have told a more effective lie. This argument is reinforced by the accepted presumption mentioned previously: that if a person has a permitted way to perform a function, he will not use a forbidden path, i.e., he would make the loan with a valid pruzbol, rather than rely on an invalid one.

Generally, a migo is an accepted argument in its own right. Nevertheless, in this instance, the migo must be reinforced by the assumption, for migo is usually employed as an argument in defense of one's position and not to expropriate money and here the plaintiff is seeking to employ it to expropriate money (Biurei HaGra 67:58).

76.

See Halachah 11.

77.

To lie, i.e., here too, we are relying on the principle of migo, as reinforced by the assumption the Rambam proceeds to mention.

78.

Lending with a pruzbol.

79.

Lending without a pruzbol.

80.

The Rambam's wording implies that both the lender and the borrower must be Torah scholars. His ruling is quoted verbatim by the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 67:20). The Rama, however, rules that not only Torah Sages, but even ordinary individuals can benefit from this leniency.

This leniency is part of the rationale, for the observance of the concept of pruzbol by the Ashkenazic community. Since all that is necessary to preserve a loan is a verbal statement made in the presence of three knowledgeable people, it is proper for everyone to do so (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchot Halva'ah:35).

81.

The Ra'avad (as understood by the Kessef Mishneh) objects to the Rambam's ruling, for, as stated in Halachah 17, the Rambam maintains that a pruzbol must be composed by a leading court, while here, he seems to imply that any few students are acceptable. The Kessef Mishneh resolves the apparent contradiction by saying that the students the Rambam refers to here are in fact distinguished judges, and there is no difference in practive between the subjects of the two halachot. Rav Yosef Corcus (in his gloss to Halachah 17) states that as long as the important court approves of such an act, the actual pruzbol may be made in the presence of lesser scholars.

82.

As stated in Halachah 18

83.

And thus, according to law, the debt is nullified and need not be repaid. This halachah is speaking about an instance where a pruzbol was not composed.

84.

I.e., they approve of this step and consider it pious behavior. The Sages thought it desirable for a debt to be returned, for in this way, people will continue lending each other money in the future.

85.

For according to law, he can no longer collect the debt.

86.

And thus, by accepting it, he is not violating the Torah's commandment to nullify the debt. Indeed, he has fulfilled the commandment to release the debt, for the Deuteronomy 15:2 introduces this commandment with the phrase: "This is the matter (d'var) of remission." D'var, translated as "matter," also relates to the word dibbur meaning "speech," implying that it is sufficient to make a statement of remission to fulfill the mitzvah [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 10:8)].

87.

For the debt has been absolved.

88.

Because it would resemble accepting payment for a debt.

89.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 231) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 480) include this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. See also Halachah 16 above.

90.

Zevachim 106a; Sifri to the above verse. The fact that this commandment employs two such terms indicates that it is a severe prohibition.

91.

As opposed to many other mitzvot for which reward is granted only in the World-to-Come. See the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Pe'ah 1:1) for a discussion of this matter.

Shemita - Chapter 10

1

It is a positive commandment to count sets of seven years1 and to sanctify the fiftieth year,2 as [Leviticus 25:8-10] states: "And you shall count seven years for yourselves... and you shall sanctify the fiftieth year." These two mitzvot are entrusted to the High Court3 alone.4

א

מצות עשה לספור שבע שבע שנים ולקדש שנת החמשים שנאמר וספרת לך שבע שבתות שנים וגו' וקדשתם את שנת החמשים ושתי מצות אלו מסורין לבית דין הגדול בלבד:

2

When did the counting begin? After the fourteen years following the entry into Eretz [Yisrael]. [This is derived from Leviticus 25:3]: "Six years shall you sow your field and six years shall you trim your vineyard." [Implied is that] each person must recognize his [portion of the] land. [The people] took seven years to conquer the land and seven years to divide it.5 Thus the counting began after the 2503rd year after the creation, from Rosh HaShanah,6 after the conjunction [of the sun and the moon before the creation] of Adam, which was in the second year of the creation.7 They declared the [two thousand,] five hundred, and tenth year after the creation which was the 21st year after the entry into Eretz Yisrael as the Sabbatical year. They counted seven Sabbatical years and then sanctified the fiftieth year which was the 64th year after they entered Eretz [Yisrael].

ב

ומאימתי התחילו למנות מאחר ארבע עשרה שנה משנכנסו לארץ שנאמר שש שנים תזרע שדך ושש [שנים תזמור כרמך עד שיהיה כל אחד מכיר את ארצו ושבע שנים עשו] בכבוש הארץ ושבע שנים בחילוק נמצאת אומר בשנת שלש וחמש מאות ואלפים ליצירה מר"ה מאחר מולד אדם הראשון שהיא שנה שניה ליצירה התחילו למנות ועשו שנת עשר וחמש מאות ליצירה שהיא שנת אחת ועשרים משנכנסו לארץ שמטה ומנו שבע שמטות וקדשו שנת החמשים שהיא שנת ארבע וששים משנכנסו לארץ:

3

The Jewish people counted 17 Jubilee years8 from the time they entered [Eretz Yisrael] until they departed.9 The year they departed, when the Temple was destroyed the first time, was the year following the Sabbatical year and the 36th year in the Jubilee cycle. For the First Temple stood for 410 years. When it was destroyed, this reckoning ceased.

After it ceased, the land remained desolate for seventy years.10 Then the Second Temple was built and it stood for 420 years. In the seventh year after it was built, Ezra ascended [to Eretz Yisrael]. This is referred to as the second entry.11 From this year, they began another reckoning. They designated the thirteenth year of the Second Temple as the Sabbatical year12 and counted seven Sabbatical years and sanctified the fiftieth year. Although the Jubilee year was not observed in [the era of] the Second Temple,13 they would count it in order to sanctify the Sabbatical years.

ג

שבעה עשר יובלים מנו ישראל משנכנסו לארץ ועד שיצאו ושנה שיצאו בה שחרב הבית בראשונה מוצאי שביעית היתה ושנת שש ושלשים ביובל היתה שארבע מאות שנה ועשר שנים עמד בית ראשון כיון שחרב הבית בטל מנין זה משבטלה נשארה הארץ חרבה שבעים שנה ונבנה בית שני וארבע מאות ועשרים שנה עמד ובשנה השביעית מבניינו עלה עזרא והיא הביאה השנייה ומשנה זו התחילו למנות מנין אחר ועשו שנת י"ג לבנין בית שני שמטה ומנו שבע שמטות וקדשו שנת החמשים אעפ"י שלא היתה שם יובל בבית שני מונין היו אותו כדי לקדש שמיטות

4

It follows that the year in which the [Second] Temple was destroyed, [more precisely, the year] beginning from Tishrei that was approximately two months after the destruction14 - for the reckoning of Sabbatical and Jubilee years begins in Tishrei - was the year following the Sabbatical year. It was the fifteenth year of the ninth Jubilee cycle.15

According to this reckoning, this year which is the 1107 year after the destruction, which is the 1487th year according to the reckoning of legal documents,16 which is 4936th year after the creation,17 is a Sabbatical year and it is the 21st year of the Jubilee cycle.18

ד

נמצאת למד שהשנה שחרב בה הבית באחרונה שתחלתה מתשרי שאחר החרבן כשני חדשים שהרי מתשרי הוא המנין לשמיטים וליובלות אותה השנה מוצאי שביעית היתה ושנת ט"ו מן היובל התשיעי היתה ולפי חשבון זה שנה זו שהיא שנת אלף ומאה ושבע לחרבן שהיא שנת שמנים ושבעה ואלף וארבע מאות למנין שטרות שהיא שנת שש ושלשים ותשע מאות וארבעת אלפים ליצירה היא שנת שמיטה והיא שנת אחת ועשרים מן היובל:

5

Nevertheless, all of the Geonim have said that they have received a tradition, transferred from teacher to student that in the seventy years between the destruction of the First Temple and the building of the Second Temple, they counted only Sabbatical years, not the Jubilee year. Similarly, after the destruction of the Second Temple, they did not count the fiftieth year. Instead, they counted only sets of seven from the beginning of the year of the destruction. [This interpretation] is also apparent from the Talmud in Avodah Zarah.19 This reckoning is a received tradition.

ה

אבל כל הגאונים אמרו שמסורת היא בידיהם איש מפי איש שלא מנו באותן השבעים שנה שבין חרבן בית ראשון ובנין בית שני אלא שמטות בלבד בלא יובל וכן משחרב באחרונה לא מנו שנת החמשים אלא שבע שבע בלבד מתחלת שנת החרבן וכן עולה בגמרא ע"ז חשבון זה שהוא קבלה:

6

[The reckoning of] the Sabbatical year is well-known and renowned among the Geonim and the people of Eretz Yisrael. None of them make any reckoning except according to the years of the destruction.20 According to this reckoning, this year which is the 1107th year after the destruction is the year following the Sabbatical year.21

We rely on this tradition and we rule according to it22 with regard to the tithes,23the Sabbatical year, and the nullification of debts, for the received tradition and deed24 are great pillars in establishing [Halachic] rulings and it is appropriate to rely on them.

ו

ושנת השמטה ידועה היא ומפורסמת אצל הגאונים ואנשי א"י וכולן לא מנו אלא לשני חורבן משליכין אותן שבע שבע ולפי חשבון זה תהי שנה זו שהיא שנת שבע ומאה ואלף לחרבן מוצאי שביעית ועל זה אנו סומכין וכפי החשבון זה אנו מורין לענין מעשרות ושביעית והשמטת כספים שהקבלה והמעשה עמודים גדולים בהוראה ובהן ראוי להתלות:

7

The Jubilee year is not counted in the set of Sabbatical years.25 Instead, the 49th year is a Sabbatical year and the fiftieth year is a Jubilee year. Then the 51st year is the first of the six years of the [next] Sabbatical cycle. This is true of every Jubilee year.

ז

שנת יובל אינה עולה ממנין שני השבוע אלא שנת תשע וארבעים שמטה ושנת חמשים יובל ושנת חמשים ואחת תחלת שש שנים של שבוע וכן בכל יובל ויובל:

8

From the time the tribes of Reuven and Gad and half the tribe of Menasheh were exiled,26 [the observance] of the Jubilee year ceased, as [implied by Leviticus 25:10]: "You shall proclaim freedom throughout the land to all of its inhabitants." [One can infer that this commandment applies only] when all of its inhabitants are dwelling within it. [Moreover,] they may not be intermingled, one tribe with another, but rather each tribe is dwelling in its appropriate place.27

When the Jubilee is observed in Eretz [Yisrael], it should also be observed in the Diaspora,28 as [implied by the phrase used in the above verse:] "It is the Jubilee," [i.e.,] in every place. [This applies] whether the Temple is standing or whether the Temple is not standing.29

ח

משגלה שבט ראובן ושבט גד וחצי שבט מנשה בטלו היובלות שנאמר וקראתם דרור בארץ לכל יושביה בזמן שכל יושביה עליה והוא שלא יהיו מעורבבין שבט בשבט אלא כולין יושבים כתקנן בזמן שהיובל [נוהג בארץ] נוהג בחו"ל שנאמר יובל היא בכל מקום בין בפני הבית בין שלא בפני הבית:

9

When [the laws of] the Jubilee year are observed, the laws of a Hebrew servant are observed,30 as are the laws of homes in a walled city, the laws of a field given as a dedication offering, and the laws of ancestral fields.31 We accept [a gentile as] a resident alien32 and the Sabbatical year is observed in Eretz [Yisrael] and debts are nullified in all places according to Scriptural Law. In the era when the Jubilee year is not observed, none of these mitzvot are observed except the Sabbatical year in Eretz [Yisrael] according to Rabbinic Law and also the nullification of debts in all places according to Rabbinic Law, as we explained.33

ט

ובזמן שהיובל נוהג נוהג דין עבד עברי ודין בתי ערי חומה ודין שדה חרמים ודין שדה אחוזה ומקבלין גר תושב ונוהגת שביעית בארץ והשמטת כספים בכל מקום מן התורה ובזמן שאין היובל [נוהג] אינו נוהג אחד מכל אלו חוץ משביעית בארץ והשמטת כספים בכ"מ מדבריהם כמו שביארנו:

10

It is a positive commandment to sound the shofar on the tenth of Tishrei34in the Jubilee year.35 This mitzvah is entrusted to the [High] Court first,36 as [Leviticus 25:9] states: "You shall sound a shofar blast. Each and every individual is also obligated to sound the shofar, as [the verse] continues: "and you shall sound the shofar."37

We sound nine shofar blasts in the same way as we sound them on Rosh HaShanah.38 We sound the shofar throughout the boundaries of [Eretz] Yisrael.39

י

מצות עשה לתקוע בשופר בעשירי לתשרי בשנת היובל ומצוה זו מסורה לבית דין תחלה (שנאמר והעברת שופר תרועה) וכל יחיד ויחיד חייב לתקוע שנאמר תעבירו שופר ותוקעין בשופר תשע כדרך שתוקעין בר"ה ומעבירין שופר בכל גבול ישראל:

11

[The requirements] of shofar used for the Jubilee and Rosh HaShanah are the same in all matters.40 Both on Rosh HaShanah and in the Jubilee the tekiyot are sounded except in the Jubilee year, they are sounded41both in the court that sanctifies the new moon42 and in a court that does not sanctify the moon.43 [Moreover,] for the entire time the court is in session, every individual is obligated to sound [the shofar even] outside the presence of the court.

יא

שופר של יובל ושל ראש השנה אחד הוא לכל דבר ואחד ראש השנה ואחד היובל לתקיעות אלא שביובל תוקעין בין בב"ד שקדשו בו את החדש בין בב"ד שלא קדשו בו את החדש וכל יחיד ויחיד חייב לתקוע כל זמן שבית דין יושבין ושלא בפני בית דין:

12

When Rosh HaShanah falls on the Sabbath, by contrast, [the shofar] would be sounded only in a court that sanctified the new moon. Every individual may sound [the shofar] only in the presence of the court.44

יב

ובר"ה שחל להיות בשבת לא היו תוקעין אלא בבית דין שקדשו בו את החדש ואין כל יחיד ויחיד תוקע אלא בפני בית דין:

13

[The observance of] three matters are of critical importance with regard to the Jubilee year:45 the sounding of the shofar,46 the release of servants,47and the return of fields to their owners.48 This is referred to as "the release of land."

יג

שלשה דברים מעכבין ביובל תקיעה ושלוח עבדים והחזקת שדות לבעליהן וזו היא שמיטת קרקע:

14

From Rosh HaShanah49 until Yom Kippur, servants would not be released to their homes,50 nor would they be subjugated to their masters,51 nor would the fields return to their [original] owners.52 Instead, the servants would eat, drink, and rejoice, with crowns on their heads. When Yom Kippur arrives and the shofar is sounded in the court, the servants are released to their homes and the fields are returned to their owners.

יד

מר"ה עד יוה"כ לא היו עבדים נפטרים לבתיהן ולא מתשעבדין לאדוניהן ולא השדות חוזרות לבעליהן אלא עבדים אוכלין ושותים ושמחים ועטרותיהם בראשיהם כיון שהגיע יום הכפורים תקעו ב"ד בשופר נפטרו עבדים לבתיהן וחזרו שדות לבעליהן:

15

With regard to the land being allowed to rest, the laws of the Jubilee year are the same of those of the Sabbatical year. Whatever agricultural labors53 are forbidden54 in the Sabbatical year are forbidden in the Jubilee year. Whatever is permitted in the Sabbatical year is permitted in the Jubilee. Whenever the performance of a labor is punishable by lashes in the Sabbatical year,55 it is punishable by lashes in the Jubilee year. [Similarly,] the laws governing the eating,56 sale,57 and removal58 of the produce of the Jubilee year are the same as those governing the produce of the Sabbatical year in all respects.

טו

דין היובל בשביתת הארץ ודין השמטה אחד הוא לכל דבר כל שאסור בשביעית מעבודת הארץ אסור בשנת יובל וכל שמותר בשביעית מותר ביובל ומלאכות שלוקין עליהן בשביעית לוקין עליהן ביובל ודין פירות שנת יובל באכילה ובמכירה ובביעור כדין פירות שביעית לכל דבר:

16

The Sabbatical year has an added dimension lacking in the Jubilee, for debts are nullified in the Sabbatical year,59 and they are not nullified in the Jubilee. The Jubilee year has an added dimension lacking in the Sabbatical year, for in the Jubilee, servants are released and land is released. This refers to the laws regarding the sale of land in the Torah.60 This is a positive commandment,61 as [Leviticus 25:24] states: "You shall grant redemption to the land.

The Jubilee year releases land at its beginning,62 while the Sabbatical year does not release debts until its conclusion, as explained.63

טז

יתירה שביעית על היובל שהשביעית משמטת כספים ולא יובל ויותר יובל על השביעית שהיובל מוציא עבדים ומשמיט קרקע וזהו דין מכירת שדות האמורות בתורה והיא מצות עשה שנאמר גאולה תתנו לארץ יובל משמיט קרקע בתחלתו ושביעית אינה משמטת כספים אלא בסופה כמו שבארנו:

Footnotes
1.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 140) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 330) includes the commandment to count the sets of years among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. As the Rambam states in Sefer HaMitzvot the mitzvah is not to count a 50 year cycle, but rather to count seven sets of seven year cycles.

2.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 136) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 332) includes the commandment to sanctify the fiftieth year among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. In Sefer HaMitzvot, the Rambam explains that the sanctification of the year is reflected in considering the produce of that year ownerless.

3.

The Sanhedrin, the court of 71 judges which served as Judaism's supreme Rabbinic authority.

4.

I.e., their fulfillment is not incumbent on each person individually, but on the people as a whole, and hence, on the High Court, who acts as their agent.

5.

Zevachim 118b derives the fact that it took the Jews seven years to conquer Eretz Yisrael from the statements of Caleb quoted in Joshua 14:7 and it postulates that the division also took seven years.

6.

Avodah Zarah 9a states that the Torah was given in the year 2448, when the forty years the Jews wandered in the desert and the fourteen years that the land was conquered and divided are added, a total of 2502 are reached. Thus the counting began in the 2503rd year.

7.

I.e., our counting begins from the creation of Adam which was on Rosh HaShanah, for Adam's creation superseded the creation that preceded his to the extent that Rosh HaShanah is considered the anniversary of creation and the beginning of the year and not the 25th of Elul even though that date was the first day of creation.

Adam's creation is mentioned as occurring in the second year after creation, because any portion of a year is considered as a year. Thus the five days from the 25th of Elul until Rosh HaShanah are the first year referred to here. Hence, there is a theoretical conjunction of the sun and the moon for that year. See Hilchot Kiddush HaChodesh 6:8 and notes which mention the day and time of the first conjunction.

8.

I.e., they were in the midst of counting the seventeenth Jubilee as explained in the following note.

9.

I Kings 6:1 relates that the first Temple was built 480 years after the exodus from Egypt. When the 40 years of wandering in the desert and the 14 years when Eretz Yisrael was conquered and divided is subtracted from that figure, 426 years remain. When the 410 years that the First Temple stood (as stated in Yoma 9a) are added, a total of 836 is reached. 836 divided by 50 equals 16. Thus the Jews were exiled in the 36th year of the seventeenth Jubilee cycle. Note the discussion of the Rambam's wording "17 Jubilees" by the Ra'avad, Radbaz, Kessef Mishneh and others based on Rosh HaShanah 9a.

10.

And for the 70 years of the Babylonian exile, the Jubilee year cycle was not followed. See Halachah 5.

11.

See also Chapter 12, Halachah 15.

12.

For they began counting from Ezra's arrival.

13.

See Halachah 8. The Rambam's intent is that the mitzvot of the Jubilee year were not observed.

14.

For the destruction took place on the ninth of Av.

15.

The Second Temple stood for 420 years (Yoma, loc. cit.). Thus if the reckoning of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years began in its seventh year, there is a total of 414. Eight Jubilee cycles produce a total of 400 years. Thus the year following the destruction was the 415th year and it was the year following the Sabbatical year.

16.

In the Talmudic era, it was customary to date legal documents from the time of Alexander the Great's ascent to the throne. See Hilchot Gerushin 1:27.

17.

This corresponds to 1176 C.E. This date is interesting in another context, for it gives us some insight into the Rambam's writing and editing of the Mishneh Torah. In his Introduction to the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam mentions the date of the composition of the work as 4937, and in Hilchot Kiddush HaChodesh 11:16, he speaks of the date 4938. Thus it is apparent that he worked on the text for several years, wrote the Introduction in 4937, and then edited and added to the work in 4938.

18.

I.e., that date is 1121 years after the last Jubilee observed before the destruction of the Second Temple. Thus if that figure is divided by fifty, 21 years are left over. Hence, it is a Sabbatical year.

19.

See Avodah Zarah 9b.

20.

For it is accepted that the year following the destruction was the beginning of a Sabbatical cycle, as stated in Halachah 4.

21.

I.e., when 1107 is divided by 7, there is a remainder of 1.

22.

The Radbaz states that this was the practice in his day and this is the present practice in Eretz Yisrael and throughout the world, for the Rambam's ruling is accepted by both the Beit Yosef and Rama (Choshen Mishpat 67:1). See Sefer Meirat Einayim 66:5.

23.

For the obligations of the second tithe and the tithe for the poor depend on the years of the Sabbatical cycle.

24.

I.e., the way the law has actually been observed.

25.

This applies whether the Jubilee year was observed in its full sense, as in most of the First Temple era, or it was merely counted as throughout the Second Temple era.

26.

The tribes of Reuven and Gad and half of the tribe of Menashe were exiled approximately 18 years before the remaining seven and a half tribes. They in turn were exiled approximately 130 years before the destruction of the Temple and exile of the tribe of Judah.

27.

For each tribe was given an ancestral heritage of its own.

28.

With regard to the freeing of Hebrew servants.

29.

I.e., it is the presence of the Jewish people in the land and not the existence of the Temple which determines the land's sanctity.

30.

See Hilchot Avadim, ch. 1-2.

31.

The laws governing the latter three subjects are described in Chapters 12 and 13.

32.

I.e., if a gentile accepts the observance of the Seven Laws Given to the Descendants of Noah, he is granted the right to dwell in Eretz Yisrael. See Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 10:6; Hilchot Melachim 8:10-11.

33.

See Chapter 9, Halachah 3, with regard to the nullification of debts. With regard to the observance of the Sabbatical year, the Rambam's statements are the subject of a difference of opinion among the commentaries. Our translation follows the version of the text suggested by Rav Yosef Corcus which is accepted by Rav Shabsi Frankel. It is also the conception followed by the Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 331). The Kessef Mishneh, however, interprets the text differently, reading the last line as: "with the exception of the Sabbatical year in Eretz [Yisrael] and, according to Rabbinic Law, the nullification of debts." Some commentaries have suggested that the Rambam's statements in Sefer HaMitzvot (positive mitzvah 135) support this interpretation. Most other Rishonim follow the conception that the observance of the Sabbatical Law is a Rabbinic ordinance in the present era. See also Chapter 12, Halachah 16, and notes and Hilchot Terumah 1:26 and notes.

34.

Yom Kippur.

35.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 137) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 331) includes this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. This mitzvah also includes setting the servants free, as the Rambam mentions in his listing of the mitzvot at the beginning of these halachot.

Sefer Hamitzvot, loc. cit., states that, thematically, this sounding of the shofar differs from the sounding of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah. On Rosh HaShanah, the shofar is sounded as "a remembrance before God." In the Jubilee, by contrast, the sounding of the shofar is the proclamation of freedom required by the Torah.

The commentaries note that this difference is also reflected in the wording used to describe the commandments. With regard to the sounding of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah, the Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvot, positive commandment 170, Hilchot Shofar 1:1) states the mitzvah is to hear the sounding of the shofar, while here he states that the mitzvah is to sound the shofar.

36.

I.e., first, the shofar is sounded in the High Court (the Sanhedrin of 71 judges) and then it should be sounded by every individual.

37.

I.e., the verse uses two forms, the first singular, and the second plural, for the same verb. On this basis, it is derived that first, the shofar is sounded by the court for the people as a unified entity, and then, it is sounded by each person individually. See Rosh HaShanah 30a, 34a.

38.

I.e., sounding three series of tekiah, shevarim, teruah, tekiah blasts. See Hilchot Shofar, ch. 3, for details.

39.

The Or Sameach interprets this phrasing to mean that although the Jubilee is observed in the Diaspora, the shofar is not sounded there.

40.

See Hilchot Shofar 1:1.

41.

I.e., even when Yom Kippur falls on the Sabbath.

42.

I.e., the Sanhedrin of 71 judges.

43.

I.e., an ordinary local court.

44.

See Hilchot Shofar 2:8-9.

45.

I.e., if these three mitzvot are not fulfilled, the Jubilee year is not granted its sanctity (Rosh HaShanah 9b).

46.

This would appear to refer to the sounding of the shofar by the High Court, and not its sounding by every individual.

47.

A Hebrew servant is granted his freedom in the Jubilee year, whether he was sold into slavery on his own initiative or by the court and even if he willingly extended his servitude, as Leviticus 25:40 states: "Until the Jubilee year, he will work with you." See Hilchot Avadim, ch. 2.

48.

As described in the following chapter.

49.

Even though the laws of the Jubilee year do not take effect until the sounding of the shofar on Yom Kippur, the sanctity of the year begins on Rosh HaShanah [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 1:1)].

50.

Lest the shofar not be sounded in the court and thus the laws of the Jubilee year not apply, as stated in the previous halachah.

51.

For the likelihood is that it will be sounded.

52.

Even though the laws of the Jubilee year do not take effect until the sounding of the shofar on Yom Kippur, the sanctity of the year begins on Rosh HaShanah [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 1:1)].

53.

We have used this translation because both work with the land and work with trees are forbidden in the Sabbatical year. See Chapters 1 and 2 above.

54.

By both Rabbinic and Scriptural Law.

55.

See Chapter 1, Halachah 2.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandments 224-226) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvot 333-335) include the prohibitions against working the land, harvesting the aftergrowth of crops, and harvesting fruit in the Jubilee year among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

56.

I.e., the respect given to the produce of the Sabbatical year, as explained in Chapter 5.

57.

See Chapter 6.

58.

See Chapter 7.

59.

As related in Chapter 9.

61.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 138) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 340) includes this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. This mitzvah is described at the beginning of the following chapter.

62.

On Yom Kippur, as stated in Halachah 14.

63.

As stated in Chapter 9, Halachah 4.

Shemita - Chapter 11

1

[The portions of] Eretz Yisrael that were divided among the tribes1 can never be sold permanently, as [Leviticus 25:23] states: "The land will not be sold in perpetuity." If one sells the land in perpetuity, both [the buyer and the seller] violate a negative commandment.2 Their deeds are of no consequence,3 and the land reverts to its [original] owner in the Jubilee year.

א

א"י המתחלקת לשבטים אינה נמכרת לצמיתות שנאמר והארץ לא תמכר לצמיתות ואם מכר לצמיתות שניהם עוברין בלא תעשה ואין מעשיהן מועילין אלא תחזור השדה לבעליה ביובל:

2

When a person sells his field for 60 years, it is not returned in the Jubilee.4 For [the only property] that returns in the Jubilee year is property that is sold without qualification or property that is sold in perpetuity.

ב

והמוכר שדהו לס' שנה אינה יוצאה ביובל שאין חוזר ביובל אלא דבר הנמכר סתם או הנמכר לצמיתות:

3

A person should not sell his home or his ancestral field even though it returns to him eventually, unless he becomes impoverished, as [Leviticus 25:25] states: "If your brother becomes indigent and sells his ancestral heritage." One is not permitted to sell [such property] and hold the money in his pocket, engage in commerce with them, or purchase utensils, servants, or livestock. [He is only allowed to] sell to provide himself with sustenance. [Nevertheless,] if one transgressed and sold [such property], the sale is valid.

ג

לא ימכור אדם ביתו או שדה אחוזתו אף ע"פ שהם חוזרין אחר זמן אלא אם כן העני שנאמר וכי ימוך אחיך ומכר מאחוזתו אבל למכור ולהניח הדמים בכיסו או לעשות בהן סחורה או ליקח בהן כלים או עבדים ובהמה אינו רשאי אלא למזונות בלבד ואם עבר ומכר מ"מ הרי אלו מכורין:

4

Judgments are made with regard to a home in accordance with the laws of a walled city,5 and with regard to a field in accordance with the laws of a field that is an ancestral heritage.6 The laws of a person who sells a field that is an ancestral heritage [require] the calculation of the years remaining until the Jubilee. Whenever [the original owner] desires to redeem the field he should make a reckoning with the purchaser with regard to the years from which he benefited from the field and reduce that from the purchase price and return the remainder.7

ד

ודנין בבית דין בתי ערי חומה ובשדה דין שדה אחוזה דין מוכר שדה אחוזתו לחשב את הדמים לפי השנים הנשארות ליובל ובכל עת שירצה לפדות מחשב עם הלוקח על השנים שאכל וגורע מדמי המוכר ומחזיר לו השאר:

5

What is implied? There remained ten years until the Jubilee and a field was sold for 100 dinar.8 The purchaser benefited from the field for three years and then the seller desired to redeem his field. He should give him 70 dinar and then [the seller] should return the field. Similarly, if he benefited from the field for six years, he should give him 40 dinar and then [the seller] should return the field. If he did not redeem it, but instead left it in the purchaser's possession until the Jubilee, and then it should return to the owner without money, as [indicated by Leviticus 25:15]: "According to the number of years of [its] crops, he will sell it to you."

ה

כיצד הרי הנשאר ליובל י' שנים ומכר לו שדה במאה דינר אכלה הלוקח ג' שנים ורצה המוכר לגאול נותן לו ע' דינר ומחזיר שדהו וכן אם אכלה ו' שנים נותן לו מ' דינר ומחזיר לו שדהו לא גאלה אלא הניחה ביד הלוקח עד שנת היובל תחזור לבעלים בלא דמים שנאמר במספר שני תבואות ימכר לך:

6

If he sold it to him when it was filled with produce and then he redeemed it after two years, he cannot tell him: "Return it to me filled with produce as it was when I sold it to you." Therefore if he sold it to him filled with produce before Rosh HaShanah and redeemed it after two years, the purchaser will have benefited from three harvests in those two years. Nevertheless, [the reduction of the price] is calculated only according to two years, as [implied by ibid. 27:18:9 "the priest shall calculate the money...] according to the remaining years," [i.e., the calculation is made according to years,] and not according to crops.10

ו

מכרה לו והיא מלאה פירות ולאחר ב' שנים גאלה אינו יכול לומר לו החזירנה לי מלאה פירות כמו שמכרתי לך לפיכך אם מכרה לו מלאה פירות לפני ר"ה וגאלה אחר שתי שנים הרי זה אוכל ג' תבואות בשתי השנים ואינו מחשב עמו אלא לפי שתי שנים בלבד שנאמר על פי השנים לא על פי התבואות:

7

The shoots, the twigs, and the fruits from the wild fig trees contained within it belong to the purchaser like its other produce.11 If, however, [the branches of a tree] are cut down12 or it dries,13 they are both forbidden to benefit from it.14 What should be done? It should be sold and land purchased with the proceeds. The purchaser is entitled to benefit from that land until the [original] field is redeemed from him.

ז

הקנים והזמורות ופירות שקמה שבתוכה הרי הן של לוקח כשאר הפירות שלה אבל אילן שנכסח או שיבש שניהן אסורין בו כיצד יעשה ימכר וילקח בדמיו קרקע והלוקח אוכל פירותיה עד שתגאל השדה מידו:

8

If a person purchases a field that is an ancestral heritage and plants trees15which increase the value [of the field], when it returns [to its original owner] in the Jubilee, we should evaluate the increase in value brought about by the trees in it and the owner of the field must pay this sum to the purchaser. [This is derived from ibid. 25:33]: "A home that was sold shall go out... [in the Jubilee]." [Implied is that the home] is returned, but not the increase in its value.

ח

הלוקח שדה אחוזה ונטעה אילנות והשביחה כשהיא חוזרת ביובל שמין שבח האילנות שבתוכה ונותן בעל השדה דמי השבח ללוקח שנא' ויצא ממכר בית ממכר חוזר ולא השבח:

9

When a person sells his field in the era when the Jubilee year is observed as we explained, he is not permitted to redeem it in less than two years, as [ibid.:15] states: "According to the number of years16 of [its] crops, he will sell it to you." Even if the purchaser was willing [to return it earlier], it is forbidden, as [the same verse] states: "According to the number of years17 after the Jubilee shall you purchase it from your colleague." [The purchaser must maintain possession for] at least two years from the date of the sale.18

ט

המוכר את שדהו בזמן שהיובל נוהג כמו שביארנו אינו מותר לגאול לפחות משתי שנים שנאמר במספר שני תבואות ימכר לך ואפילו רצה הלוקח אסור שנאמר במספר שנים אחר היובל תקנה מאת עמיתך אין פחות משתי שנים מעת לעת מיום המכירה:

10

The purchaser must benefit from two crops in these two years and then [the seller] may redeem it, for it is written "years of its crops." Therefore if one of the two years were the Sabbatical year19 or a year of windblast or blight,20 they are not included in the reckoning.

י

וצריך שיאכל הלוקח שתי תבואות בשתי שנים ואח"כ יגאל שנאמר שני תבואות לפיכך אם היתה אחת משתי השנים שביעית או שנת שדפון או ירקון אינה עולה מן המנין:

11

If, however, the purchaser left it fallow one year and then benefited from it in the second year or benefited from it one year and then lightly plowed it, but did not sow it in the following year, [these years] are included in the reckoning.21 If he sold it in the Jubilee itself, the sale is not binding and the money should be returned to the seller.22

יא

הניחה הלוקח בורה שנה ואכלה שנה או אכלה שנה ונרה שנה ולא זרעה הרי אלו עולין למנין מכרה בשנת יובל עצמה אינה נמכרת והדמים חוזרין לבעלים:

12

If he sold it one year before the Jubilee, the purchaser benefits from it for a second year after the Jubilee,23 as [implied by the phrase]: "years of its crops."

יב

מכרה שנה אחת לפני היובל הרי הלוקח אוכל אותה שנה שניה אחר היובל שנאמר שני תבואות:

13

If he sold clefts that were filled with water or rocky [land] that was not fit to sow upon, he may redeem them in less than two years, as [implied by the phrase]: "years of its crops." One might infer that it is only a field that is fit to grow crops that is not redeemed in less than two years. [Nevertheless,] if the original owner did not redeem [this land], it returns to him in the Jubilee even though it is not fit to be sown.24

יג

מכר נקעים מלאים מים או סלעים שאינם ראויין לזריעה ה"ז פודה בפחות משתי שנים שנאמר במספר שני תבואות שדה הראוי לתבואה הוא שאינה נגאלת אלא אחר שתי שנים ואם לא גאלה אף על פי שאינה ראויה לזריעה חוזרת לבעלים ביובל:

14

If he sold [fruit-]trees,25 they may not be redeemed in less than two years, for they are fit to produce crops. If he did not redeem them, they are not returned to the owner in the Jubilee, as [implied by ibid.:27]: "he shall return to his ancestral heritage." [This excludes] trees.26

יד

מכר אילנות אין נגאלין לפחות משתי שנים שהרי ראויים לתבואות ואם לא גאלן אינן חוזרין לבעלים ביובל שנאמר ושב לאחוזתו ולא לאילנות:

15

If a person sold his field to one person, that person sold it to a second, the second to a third - even if there were 100 consecutive sales - in the Jubilee, it returns to its original owner, as [implied by Leviticus 27:24]: "In the Jubilee year, the field will return to the one from whom he purchased it, whose ancestral heritage it was."27

טו

מכר שדהו לראשון וראשון מכר לשני ושני לשלישי אפילו מאה זה אחר זה בשנת היובל תחזור לאדון הראשון שנאמר בשנת היובל ישוב השדה לאשר קנהו מאתו לאשר לו אחוזת הארץ:

16

If [the owner] sold it to the first purchaser for 100 dinarim and [the latter] sold it to the second for 200, should the original owner desire to redeem it, he makes a reckoning only with the first purchaser, as [ibid. 25:27] states: "[And return the remainder] to the man to whom he sold it."28 If [the owner] sold it to a person for 200 and [the latter] sold it for 100, [the owner] makes a reckoning with the final [purchaser].29

Similarly, if he sold the field for 100 and it increased in value30 in the possession of the purchaser until it was appropriate to be sold for 200, the reckoning should be made according to the purchase price. If he sold it for 200 and its value diminished31 and it is now fit to be sold for 100, the reckoning should be made according to its present value. [The general principle is:] We always augment the legal power of the seller of an ancestral heritage and weaken the legal power of the purchaser.

טז

מכרה לראשון במאה דינר וראשון לשני במאתים ורצה האדון לגאול אינו מחשב אלא עם הראשון שנאמר לאיש אשר מכר לו מכרה לראשון במאתים וראשון לשני במאה ה"ז מחשב עם האחרון וכן אם מכר במאה והשביחה ביד הלוקח והרי היא ראויה להמכר במאתים מחשב לפי מה שמכר ואם מכרה במאתים והכסיפה והרי היא ראויה להמכר במאה מחשב לפי מה שהיא ולעולם מיפים כח מוכר שדה אחוזה ומריעין כח הלוקח:

17

When a person sells a field that is an ancestral heritage, but he also possesses other fields and sells some of those other fields to redeem [his ancestral heritage] that he sold, his [request to redeem the field] is not heeded, for [ibid.:26] states: "And he attained enough to redeem it." [We can infer that] he must attain something that was not accessible to him at the time he sold it. Similarly, if he borrowed [money] to redeem [the field], his [request] is not heeded, for that verse states: "And he acquired." [Implied is that he must obtain the means on his own], not through a loan.

יז

המוכר שדה אחוזתו והיו לו שדות אחרות ומכר מאותם השדות כדי לגאול שדה שמכר אין שומעין לו שנאמר ומצא כדי גאולתו עד שימצא דבר שאינו מצוי לו בשעה שמכר וכן אם לוה לגאול אין שומעין לו שנאמר והשיגה ידו לא שילוה:

18

If he attained a small amount [of resources] and desired to redeem half the field he sold, his [request] is not heeded, for that verse states: "enough to redeem it." Either he redeems the entire [field] or he does not redeem at all.

If a relative desired to redeem it, he may, as [ibid.:25] states: "And his redeemer who is related to him shall come...."32

יח

מצא מעט ורצה לגאול חצי השדה שמכר אין שומעין לו שנאמר כדי גאולתו או גואל את כולה או אינו גואל ואם רצו קרוביו לגאול גואלים שנאמר ובא גואלו הקרוב אליו:

19

When a person gives his field away as a present, it returns to him in the Jubilee, as [ibid.:13] states: "Each man shall return to his ancestral heritage." This includes one who gave [it away as] a present.33

יט

הנותן שדהו מתנה ה"ז חוזרת לו ביובל שנאמר תשובו איש אל אחוזתו לרבות את המתנה:

20

Brothers who divide [an inheritance] are considered as purchasers34 and each one should return his portion to the other in the Jubilee, but their division is not nullified.35 Similarly, a firstborn36 and one who performs yibbum with his brother's wife,37 return the portion that they received in the Jubilee and take another portion instead of it.

כ

האחין שחלקו כלקוחות הן ומחזירין זה לזה חלקו ביובל לא תבטל חלוקתן מכמות שהיתה וכן הבכור והמייבם אשת אחיו מחזיר ביובל חלק שנטל ונוטל החלק שכנגדו:

21

[Different rules apply with regard to a husband] who inherits his wife's [property]. Although a husband's inheritance of this property is a Rabbinic ordinance,38our Sages reinforced their decree as if it were of Scriptural origin and he is not required to return it [to the women's family] in the Jubilee year.39 If he inherited a [family] cemetery from her, he should return it to her family members lest this blemish [the reputation of] the family.40 They should pay him its worth after deducting the value of his wife's grave, for he is obligated to bury her.41

כא

אבל היורש את אשתו אעפ"י שירושת הבעל מדבריהם עשו חזוק לדבריהם כשל תורה ואינו מחזיר ביובל ואם ירש ממנה בית הקברות יחזיר לבני משפחה משום פגם משפחה ויתנו לו דמיה ומנכין לו דמי קבר אשתו שהרי חייב בקבורתה:

Footnotes
1.

For the entire passage speaks about an "ancestral heritage," i.e., land given to a person's ancestors when the land was originally divided among the tribes (Radbaz). This excludes Jerusalem which was never divided among the tribes (Rambam LeAm).

2.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 227) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 339) include the commandment for the land not to be sold in perpetuity among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

3.

For whenever a person acts in violation of Torah Law, his deeds are of no avail (Temurah 4b). Since their deeds are of no consequence, they are not punished by lashes (Mishneh LiMelech).

4.

Even though a Jubilee year will definitely fall within the span of the sale.

5.

As explained in the following chapter. Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 139 and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 3410) include the commandment to carry out the laws pertaining to a walled city among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

6.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 138) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 340) include the command to enable a field to be redeemed or for it to be returned to its owner in the Jubilee year among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

7.

As the Rambam explains in the following halachah, the sale of such a field is considered as a rental agreement until the Jubilee year, with the purchase price being divided equally among the years remaining until the Jubilee. Thus each year has a set value. If the seller wants to redeem his field, he must pay back the money for the remaining years.

8.

Thus the right to use the field was sold for 10 dinar a year.

9.

Although this verse is speaking about the consecration of a field and its redemption from the Temple treasury, Arichin 29b-30a explains that the same principles should be applied to a sale to a private person.

10.

As one might conclude from Leviticus 25:15 as cited in the previous halachah.

11.

For these are considered as temporary benefits which the field regularly produces.

12.

Our translation is based on the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Kilayim 2:5). See also the Kessef Mishneh to Chapter 1, Halachah 15.

13.

And thus it has value only to be cut down as firewood.

14.

The purchaser is forbidden to benefit from it alone, because the tree is considered as part of the permanent features of the field and thus was not included in the original sale. On the other hand, the owner cannot take the entire benefit for himself, for the purchaser is entitled to benefit from it for the duration of his ownership of the property.

15.

If, however, the body of the land itself increases in value, that increase is not granted to the purchaser. See Halachah 16.

16.

The use of the plural form implies that the sale must be for at least two years.

17.

If, however, the body of the land itself increases in value, that increase is not granted to the purchaser. See Halachah 16.

18.

I.e., he cannot redeem it until the same date two years later. We do not count the years as beginning from Rosh HaShanah, but from the date of the sale.

19.

When it is forbidden to sow a field.

20.

Which prevented crops from growing in the entire land (Bava Metzia 106a).

21.

Since crops could have grown during those years, and he chose not to sow the land on his own, they are considered "years of its crops." The Kessef Mishneh states that this law also applies if the purchaser leaves it fallow for two years. The Radbaz, however, does not accept this conclusion.

22.

Arachin 29b explains that this is a logical conclusion. If the advent of the Jubilee causes a field that was sold to be returned to its original owners, it will certainly prevent the sale of one that was not sold as of yet from taking effect.

23.

As implied by the phrase "years of its crops," a sale must take effect for at least two years. Hence, the Jubilee does not nullify this sale and the land remains his for one year after the sale. Kin'at Eliyahu notes that since a Jubilee is always preceded by a Sabbatical year (when the purchaser cannot benefit from it), the land must have been sold two years before the Jubilee.

24.

For such land is still called "his ancestral heritage" (Arachin 14b).

25.

The bracketed addition is based on the gloss of the Radbaz who explains that this law would not apply to non-fruit trees. They could be redeemed within the two years. He also explains that the seller must have specifically stated that the sale does not include the land. Otherwise, a certain amount of land is automatically included as stated in Hilchot Mechirah 24:1-2. See also the notes to Hilchot Arichin 4:25.

26.

For the term "ancestral heritage" implies land.

27.

Although the verse is speaking about the return of a purchased field that was consecrated, similar principles apply even if the field was not consecrated.

28.

That purchaser must reimburse the person to whom he sold the field. Although the profit of the purchaser/seller is minimized according to the number of years remaining to the Jubilee, he still retains the profit for the years the sale was viable.

29.

I.e., the owner need not compensate the purchaser/seller for his loss.

30.

This is referring to an increase that comes about because of market fluctuations and not as a result of improvements made by the purchaser as indicated by Halachah 8 (Radbaz).

31.

Here also, the Rambam is speaking about a decrease as a result of market fluctuations. Needless to say, the same law would apply if the value of the land was reduced because of the purchaser's actions.

32.

The classic example of this is the redemption of the field sold by Elimelech by his relative, Boaz, as described at the conclusion of the book of Ruth.

33.

As the Radbaz mentions, in several sources (e.g., Chapter 12, Halachah 4), we find the principle that a present is considered as a sale. [Kin'at Eliyahu asks: If so, why is the prooftext necessary?]

34.

I.e., we consider it as if they sold the share the other received in return for the share that they received. We do not apply the principle of bereirah, i.e., consider the portion received as the portion destined for them at the outset (Bechorot 52b).

35.

I.e., there is no need to nullify the entire division and recalculate. Instead, it is sufficient to merely exchange portions (Kessef Mishneh).

36.

Who receives a double share of the inheritance. From the wording of Deuteronomy 21:17, our Sages conclude that this double portion is given to the firstborn as a present. Hence, since a present is considered as a sale, the share is returned and the inheritance redivided [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Bechorot 9:11)].

37.

And is therefore given his brother's share of the inheritance (Hilchot Nachalot 3:7). He is also called a "firstborn" (Deuteronomy 25:6) and thus the concepts mentioned in the previous note apply to him.

38.

See Hilchot Ishut 12:3; Hilchot Nachalot 1:8, 6:8.

39.

I.e., he is considered as a single heir and not as a purchaser.

40.

As the Maggid Mishneh states in his gloss to Hilchot Mechirah 24:17, it is an embarrassment for the members of a family that their relatives will not be buried in the family plot.

41.

See Hilchot Ishut 12:2,4.

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in the one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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