1

According to Scriptural Law, when a creditor demands payment of his debt, and the debtor possesses some property, consideration is granted to the debtor and the remainder of the possessions are granted to the creditor, as explained.

If no property belonging to the debtor is found or only those items that are granted to him in consideration are found, the debtor is enabled to go free.

We do not imprison him, nor do we tell him: "Bring proof that you are poor." We do not require him to take an oath that he has no possessions as the gentile legal process does. All of the above is included in the prohibition (Exodus 22:24): "Do not act as a creditor toward him." Instead, we tell the creditor: "If you know that this person who owes you money possesses property, go and seize it."

א

דִּין תּוֹרָה שֶׁבִּזְמַן שֶׁיִּתְבַּע הַמַּלְוֶה אֶת חוֹבוֹ אִם נִמְצְאוּ לַלּוֶֹה נְכָסִים מְסַדְּרִין לוֹ וְנוֹתְנִין לְבַעַל חוֹבוֹ אֶת הַשְּׁאָר כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. וְאִם לֹא נִמְצָא לַלּוֶֹה כְּלוּם אוֹ נִמְצְאוּ לוֹ דְּבָרִים שֶׁמְּסַדְּרִין לוֹ בִּלְבַד יֵלֵךְ הַלּוֶֹה לְדַרְכּוֹ וְאֵין אוֹסְרִין אוֹתוֹ וְאֵין אוֹמְרִים לוֹ הָבֵא רְאָיָה שֶׁאַתָּה עָנִי וְלֹא מַשְׁבִּיעִין אוֹתוֹ כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁדָּנִין הָעַכּוּ''ם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כב כד) "לֹא תִהְיֶה לוֹ כְּנשֶׁה". אֶלָּא אוֹמְרִים לַמַּלְוֶה אִם אַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ נְכָסִים לְזֶה הַמְחֻיָּב לְךָ לֵךְ וּתְפֹס אוֹתָן:

2

If the creditor claims that the debtor possesses property, but is hiding it, and it is present within his home, according to law it is not proper for either the creditor or an agent of the court to enter his home to seize the property. Indeed, the Torah warned concerning this saying Deuteronomy 24:11: "Stand outside." We do, however, issue a ban of ostracism against anyone who owns property and does not give it to his creditor.

When, however, the Geonim of the early generations who arose after the compilation of the Talmud saw that the number of deceitful people had increased and the possibility of obtaining loans was diminishing, they ordained that a debtor who claims bankruptcy should be required to take a severe oath, comparable to a Scriptural oath, administered while he is holding a sacred article, that he does not possess any property aside from what he is given in consideration, that he has not hidden his property in the hands of others, or given the property to others as a present with the intent that it be returned.

He should include in the oath that any profit he makes and everything that comes into his possession or domain which he acquires, he will not use to provide sustenance, clothing, or care for his wife or children, that he will not give any person in the world a present. Instead, he will take from everything that he earns food for 30 days and clothing for 12 months that is appropriate for him - not the food of gluttons or drunkards, nor that enjoyed by the sons of royalty, and not the garments of the officers of the royal court, but food and clothing that is commonplace for him." Anything beyond his needs, he should give to his creditor little by little until he pays his entire debt. Before the oath is administered, a ban of ostracism is issued against anyone who knows that so and so possesses property that is either revealed or hidden and does not inform the court.

Even after this oath was ordained, neither a creditor nor an agent of the court is allowed to enter the house of the debtor. For an ordinance was not instituted to uproot the Torah's laws themselves. Instead, the debtor himself must bring out his utensils or say: "This and this is what I possess." We leave him what is appropriate for him, expropriate the rest and have him take the oath ordained as described above. This is the legal process among the Jewish community in all places.

If the debtor was seen with property after having taken this oath, and he tries to excuse himself, claiming that it belongs to others or that it was given to him as an investment, we do not accept his statements unless he brings proof. My teachers ruled in this manner.

ב

טָעַן שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ וְהֶחְבִּיא אוֹתָן וַהֲרֵי הֵן בְּתוֹךְ בֵּיתוֹ אֵין מִן הַדִּין שֶׁיִּכָּנֵס לְבֵיתוֹ לֹא הוּא וְלֹא שְׁלִיחַ בֵּית דִּין שֶׁהַתּוֹרָה הִקְפִּידָה עַל זֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כד יא) "בַּחוּץ תַּעֲמֹד". אֲבָל מַחְרִימִין עַל מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ וְלֹא יִתֵּן לְבַעַל חוֹבוֹ. כְּשֶׁרָאוּ הַגְּאוֹנִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים שֶׁעָמְדוּ אַחַר חִבּוּר הַגְּמָרָא שֶׁרַבּוּ הָרַמָּאִים וְנִנְעֲלָה דֶּלֶת בִּפְנֵי לוִֹין הִתְקִינוּ שֶׁמַּשְׁבִּיעִין אֶת הַלּוֶֹה שְׁבוּעָה חֲמוּרָה כְּעֵין שֶׁל תּוֹרָה בִּנְקִיטַת חֵפֶץ שֶׁאֵין לוֹ כְּלוּם יֶתֶר עַל דְּבָרִים שֶׁמְּסַדְּרִין לוֹ. וְשֶׁלֹּא הֶחְבִּיאָן בְּיַד אֲחֵרִים וְשֶׁלֹּא נָתַן מַתָּנָה עַל מְנָת לְהַחְזִיר. וְכוֹלֵל בִּשְׁבוּעָה זוֹ שֶׁכָּל שֶׁיַּרְוִיחַ וְכָל שֶׁיָּבוֹא לְיָדוֹ אוֹ לִרְשׁוּתוֹ מֵאֲשֶׁר תַּשִּׂיג יָדוֹ לֹא יַאֲכִיל מִמֶּנּוּ כְּלוּם לֹא לְאִשְׁתּוֹ וְלֹא לְבָנָיו וְלֹא יַלְבִּישׁ אוֹתָן וְלֹא יְטַפֵּל בָּהֶן וְלֹא יִתֵּן מַתָּנָה לְאָדָם בָּעוֹלָם. אֶלָּא יוֹצִיא מִכָּל אֲשֶׁר תַּשִּׂיג יָדוֹ מְזוֹן שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם וּכְסוּת שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ מָזוֹן הָרָאוּי לוֹ וּכְסוּת הָרָאוּי לוֹ. לֹא אֲכִילַת הַזּוֹלְלִים וְהַסּוֹבְאִין אוֹ בְּנֵי מְלָכִים וְלֹא מַלְבּוּשֵׁי הַפָּחוֹת וְהַסְּגָנִים אֶלָּא כְּדַרְכּוֹ. וְכָל הַיֶּתֶר עַל צָרְכּוֹ יִתֵּן לְבַעַל חוֹבוֹ רִאשׁוֹן רִאשׁוֹן עַד שֶׁיַּגְבֶּנּוּ כָּל חוֹבוֹ. וּמַחְרִימִין תְּחִלָּה עַל מִי שֶׁיֵּדַע לִפְלוֹנִי נְכָסִים גְּלוּיִין אוֹ טְמוּנִין וְלֹא יוֹדִיעַ לְבֵית דִּין. גַּם אַחַר הַתַּקָּנָה הַזֹּאת אֵין בַּעַל חוֹב יָכוֹל לְהִכָּנֵס לְתוֹךְ בֵּיתוֹ שֶׁל לוֶֹה לֹא הוּא וְלֹא שְׁלִיחַ בֵּית דִּין שֶׁלֹּא תִּקְּנוּ לַעֲקֹר גּוּף הַתּוֹרָה אֶלָּא הַלּוֶֹה עַצְמוֹ יוֹצִיא כֵּלָיו אוֹ יֹאמַר כָּךְ וְכָךְ הוּא שֶׁיֵּשׁ לִי מַנִּיחִין הָרָאוּי לוֹ וְיוֹצִיא הַשְּׁאָר וְיִשָּׁבַע בְּתַקָּנָה זוֹ וְכָזֶה דָּנִין יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכָל מְקוֹמוֹתָן. נִרְאֶה לוֹ מָמוֹן אַחַר שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע שְׁבוּעָה זוֹ וְאָמַר שֶׁל אֲחֵרִים הוּא אוֹ עֵסֶק הוּא בְּיָדִי אֵין שׁוֹמְעִין לוֹ עַד שֶׁיָּבִיא רְאָיָה. וְכֵן הוֹרוּ רַבּוֹתַי:

3

When a person takes this oath that he is bankrupt and all that he earns will be given to his creditors, he may not be required to take this same oath by all of his creditors. Instead, one oath applies to all the creditors. The rationale is that this is an ordinance instituted by the later sages, and we are not precise in applying it stringently. On the contrary, we are lenient.

ג

מִי שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע שְׁבוּעָה זוֹ שֶׁאֵין לוֹ כְּלוּם וְכָל מַה שֶּׁיַּרְוִיחַ יִתֵּן לְבַעַל חוֹב אֵין כָּל אֶחָד מִבַּעֲלֵי חוֹבוֹת בָּא וּמַשְׁבִּיעוֹ שֶׁשְּׁבוּעָה אַחַת כּוֹלֶלֶת כָּל בַּעֲלֵי חוֹבוֹת. וְתַקָּנַת אַחֲרוֹנִים הִיא וְאֵין מְדַקְדְּקִין בָּהּ לְהַחְמִיר אֶלָּא לְהָקֵל:

4

An exception to the above practice is made with regard to a person who has established a reputation for being poor and virtuous, and conducts himself in a trustworthy manner, and this is known to the judges and the majority of the people. If a creditor comes and seeks to make this person take the oath mentioned above, and it can be presumed that the plaintiff has no doubt about the debtor's state of poverty, but instead wishes to cause him exasperation with this oath, to torment him and to embarrass him publicly, to take revenge upon him or to force him to borrow money from gentiles or take property belonging to his wife to pay this creditor and absolve himself from taking this oath, it appears to me that it is forbidden for a God-fearing judge to have this oath administered. If he does administer this oath, he violates the Scriptural prohibition: "Do not act as a creditor toward him."

Moreover, the judge should reproach the creditor and castigate him, for he is bearing a grudge and acting according to the reckless whims of his heart. Our Sages instituted this ordinance only because of deceitful people, as implied by Deuteronomy 22:2: "Until your brother seeks it out," which can be interpreted to mean: Seek out whether your brother is deceitful or not. In this instance, since it is established knowledge that this person is poor and that he is not deceitful, it is forbidden to require him to take this oath.

Similarly, when it is established knowledge that a person is deceitful and he deals corruptly in financial matters, we presume that he possesses financial resources although he claims to be bankrupt, and he is eager to take this oath. I maintain that it is not appropriate to require him to take the oath. Instead, if it is possible for the judge to compel him to make restitution to his creditor or to place him under a ban of ostracism until he makes restitution, he should do so. The rationale is that he is presumed to possess financial resources, and paying a creditor is a mitzvah.

The general principle is: Whenever a judge performs one of these activities with the sole intent of pursuing justice, as we have been commanded to, without intending to favor either of the litigants in judgment, he has that authority, and he will receive a reward for his efforts, provided that they are carried out for the sake of heaven.

ד

מִי שֶׁהֻחְזַק שֶׁהוּא עָנִי וְכָשֵׁר וְהוֹלֵךְ בְּתֹם וְהַדָּבָר גָּלוּי וְיָדוּעַ לַדַּיָּן וּלְרֹב הָעָם וּבָא בַּעַל חוֹבוֹ לְהַשְׁבִּיעוֹ בְּתַקָּנָה זוֹ וְהֻחְזַק הַתּוֹבֵעַ שֶׁאֵינוֹ מִסְתַּפֵּק בַּעֲנִיּוּת זֶה אֶלָּא רוֹצֶה לְצַעֲרוֹ בִּשְׁבוּעָה זוֹ לְהָצֵר לוֹ וּלְבַיְּשׁוֹ בָּרַבִּים כְּדֵי לְהִנָּקֵם מִמֶּנּוּ אוֹ כְּדֵי שֶׁיֵּלֵךְ וְיִלְוֶה מִן הָעַכּוּ''ם אוֹ יִקַּח נִכְסֵי אִשְׁתּוֹ וְיִתֵּן לָזֶה עַד שֶׁיִּנָּצֵל מִשְּׁבוּעָה זוֹ. יֵרָאֶה לִי שֶׁאָסוּר לְדַיָּן יְרֵא שָׁמַיִם לְהַשְׁבִּיעוֹ שְׁבוּעָה זוֹ וְאִם הִשְׁבִּיעוֹ בִּטֵּל לֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁל תּוֹרָה לֹא תִהְיֶה לוֹ כְּנשֶׁה. וְלֹא עוֹד אֶלָּא רָאוּי לַדַּיָּן לִגְעֹר בַּתּוֹבֵעַ וּלְטָרְדוֹ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא נוֹטֵר וְהוֹלֵךְ בִּשְׁרִירוּת לִבּוֹ. שֶׁלֹּא תִּקְּנוּ הַגְּאוֹנִים תַּקָּנָה זוֹ אֶלָּא מִפְּנֵי הָרַמָּאִין וַהֲרֵי נֶאֱמַר (דברים כב ב) "עַד דְּרשׁ אָחִיךָ אֹתוֹ" דָּרְשֵׁהוּ אִם רַמַּאי הוּא אוֹ אֵינוֹ רַמַּאי וּמֵאַחַר שֶׁהֻחְזַק זֶה שֶׁהוּא עָנִי וְשֶׁאֵינוֹ רַמַּאי אָסוּר לְהַשְׁבִּיעוֹ. וְכֵן אֲנִי אוֹמֵר שֶׁמִּי שֶׁהֻחְזַק רַמַּאי וּדְרָכָיו מְקֻלְקָלִין בְּמַשָּׂאוֹ וּמַתָּנוֹ וַהֲרֵי הוּא אָמוּד שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ מָמוֹן וְטָעַן שֶׁאֵין לוֹ כְּלוּם וַהֲרֵי הוּא רָץ לְהִשָּׁבַע בְּתַקָּנָה זוֹ שֶׁאֵין רָאוּי לְהַשְׁבִּיעוֹ אֶלָּא אִם יֵשׁ כֹּחַ בַּדַּיָּן לַעֲשׂוֹתוֹ עַד שֶׁיִּפְרַע בַּעַל חוֹבוֹ אוֹ לְנַדּוֹתוֹ עַד שֶׁיִּתֵּן יַעֲשֶׂה מֵאַחַר שֶׁהוּא אָמוּד. שֶׁפְּרִיעַת בַּעַל חוֹב מִצְוָה. כְּלָלוֹ שֶׁל דָּבָר כָּל שֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה הַדַּיָּן מִדְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ וְכַוָּנָתוֹ לִרְדֹּף הַצֶּדֶק בִּלְבַד שֶׁנִּצְטַוֵּינוּ לְרָדְפוֹ וְלֹא לַעֲבֹר הַדִּין עַל אֶחָד מִבַּעֲלֵי דִּינִין הֲרֵי זֶה מֻרְשֶׁה לַעֲשׂוֹת וּמְקַבֵּל שָׂכָר. וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיוּ מַעֲשָׂיו לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם:

5

Whenever a person is obligated to take this oath because of a promissory note that he is liable for, he admitted owing money to other people, and he was able to amass more property than the minimum amount allotted to him, this extra amount should be given only to the creditors who possess promissory notes. The rationale is that we suspect that the debtor may be conspiring to perpetrate deception by making an admission of a debt concerning this property.

ה

מִי שֶׁנִּתְחַיֵּב בִּשְׁבוּעָה זוֹ מִפְּנֵי שְׁטַר חוֹב שֶׁעָלָיו וְהוֹדָה לַאֲחֵרִים בְּחוֹבוֹת אֲחֵרִים וְהִשִּׂיגָה יָדוֹ יֶתֶר עַל הָרָאוּי לוֹ לֹא יִטּל הַיֶּתֶר אֶלָּא בַּעֲלֵי שְׁטָרוֹת בִּלְבַד. שֶׁמָּא קְנוּנְיָא עוֹשֶׂה בְּהוֹדָאָתוֹ עַל נְכָסָיו שֶׁל זֶה:

6

When Reuven owes Shimon 100 zuz and Levi owes Reuven 100 zuz, we should expropriate the money from Levi and give it to Shimon.

Therefore, if Reuven does not possess any property, but has promissory notes owed to him by Levi, those promissory notes are given to Shimon to collect. Accordingly, if Levi claims that the promissory note was given on faith or that it had already been paid, even though Reuven acknowledges the truth of Levi's statement, his admission is of no consequence. The rationale is that we fear that they may be conspiring to perpetrate deception to cause Shimon to lose his right to the money owed by Levi. Instead, Shimon may take an oath and expropriate the money from Levi. This is the law that applies to anyone who expropriates property; he may do so only after taking an oath.

Similarly, the following law applies to any person against whom there is an outstanding promissory note, who admits owing money to another person on his own initiative. If he does not possess enough property to pay both debts, the person with the promissory note alone is entitled to collect his due. This is ordained, because we suspect that they may be conspiring to perpetrate deception to undermine the power of the person's promissory note.

ו

רְאוּבֵן שֶׁהָיָה חַיָּב לְשִׁמְעוֹן מֵאָה וְלֵוִי חַיָּב לִרְאוּבֵן מֵאָה מוֹצִיאִין מִלֵּוִי וְנוֹתְנִין לְשִׁמְעוֹן. לְפִיכָךְ אִם אֵין לִרְאוּבֵן נְכָסִים וְהָיוּ לוֹ שִׁטְרֵי חוֹב עַל לֵוִי וְאָמַר לֵוִי שְׁטַר אֲמָנָה הוּא פָּרוּעַ הוּא וְהוֹדָה לוֹ רְאוּבֵן אֵין מַשְׁגִּיחִין עַל הוֹדָאָתוֹ שֶׁמָּא קְנוּנְיָא הֵם עוֹשִׂין לְאַבֵּד זְכוּתוֹ שֶׁל שִׁמְעוֹן אֶלָּא יִשָּׁבַע שִׁמְעוֹן וְיִטּל מִלֵּוִי כְּדִין כָּל טוֹרֵף שֶׁאֵינוֹ נִפְרָע אֶלָּא בִּשְׁבוּעָה. וְכֵן כָּל מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ עָלָיו שְׁטַר חוֹב וְהוֹדָה לְאַחֵר מֵעַצְמוֹ בְּחוֹב אַחֵר אִם אֵין לוֹ נְכָסִים כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּגְבּוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם גּוֹבֶה בַּעַל הַשְּׁטָר בִּלְבַד שֶׁלֹּא יַעֲשׂוּ קְנוּנְיָא עַל שְׁטָרוֹ שֶׁל זֶה:

7

It is forbidden for one to lend money - even to a Torah scholar - without having witnesses observe the transaction unless the lender receives an article as collateral. It is even more commendable to have the loan supported by a promissory note.

Whenever a person gives a loan without having witnesses observe the transaction, he transgresses the prohibition (Leviticus 19:14): "Do not place a stumbling block before the blind" and brings a curse upon himself.

ז

אָסוּר לָאָדָם לְהַלְווֹת מְעוֹתָיו בְּלֹא עֵדִים וַאֲפִלּוּ לְתַלְמִיד חָכָם אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן הִלְוָהוּ עַל הַמַּשְׁכּוֹן. וְהַמַּלְוֶה בִּשְׁטָר מְשֻׁבָּח יָתֵר. וְכָל הַמַּלְוֶה בְּלֹא עֵדִים עוֹבֵר מִשּׁוּם (ויקרא יט יד) "וְלִפְנֵי עִוֵּר לֹא תִתֵּן מִכְשׁל" וְגוֹרֵם קְלָלָה לְעַצְמוֹ:

8

When a master borrows money from his servant and afterwards frees him, he is not liable to him at all. The same laws apply when a husband borrows from his wife. The rationales are that everything that a servant acquires becomes acquired by his master, and any money that is in a woman's possession is assumed to belong to her husband, unless she brings proof that it comes from her dowry.

ח

הָרַב שֶׁלָּוָה מֵעַבְדּוֹ וְאַחַר כָּךְ שִׁחְרְרוֹ אוֹ לָוָה מֵאִשְׁתּוֹ וְאַחַר כָּךְ גֵּרְשָׁהּ אֵין לָהֶן עָלָיו כְּלוּם שֶׁכָּל מַה שֶּׁקָּנָה עֶבֶד קָנָה רַבּוֹ וְכָל הַמָּעוֹת שֶׁבְּיַד הָאִשָּׁה בְּחֶזְקַת בַּעְלָהּ אֶלָּא אִם הֵבִיאָה רְאָיָה שֶׁהֵן מִנְּדֻנְיָתָהּ: