Masechet Bava Batra 175a-176b

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11 Feb 2010

The Coming Week’s Daf Yomi by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim (original ideas) of Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.

Bava Batra 175a-b

Aside from the monetary obligation to pay back a loan, there is a mitzvah to do so, as well. Furthermore, according to the Mishna, if a person borrows money and a promissory note is written, then his property becomes obligated to the debt, and the lender can collect the debt from that property even if it has been sold to a third party. If, however, the loan was made in front of witnesses, but no note was written, then repayment can only be made from property that the borrower is still holding.

This clear halacha notwithstanding, we find a disagreement about how property becomes obligated to the repayment of that debt.

According to Ulla, all loans – whether they are committed to writing or done in front of witnesses – obligate the borrower’s property, which theoretically can be collected as payment even if it has been sold. Ulla argues that the basis for this rule is biblical, and that the Sages limited it only to loans that are committed to writing because only then can we be certain that the individual who purchased the land from the borrower would know that there was a lien on it. When the loan only had witnesses, we are concerned lest the buyer will unfairly lose his purchase.

According to Rava, biblical law does not recognize the automatic creation of a lien on property in any case of borrowing. The Sages enacted a rule obligating the borrower’s property to pay the loan in order to offer a guarantee to the lender so that loans would be readily available. This rule was limited to cases where we could be certain that the purchaser would hear about the lien, that is, only cases where a formal note was written.

The Ramah explains that according to Ulla the biblical law obligated all of the borrower’s property to the repayment of the debt – both real estate and moveable property. The Sages limited the lien only to real estate out of concern that it would be impossible for people to keep track of liens on movable property, and every purchase might be collected for unpaid debts.

Bava Batra 176a-b

We have learned above (see dapim 173 and 174) about the role of an arev – someone who agrees to guarantee a loan. According to the Mishna (175b) if the arev signed on the loan after it had already been agreed upon, signed and witnessed then even in cases where he will have to pay, there would be no liens on his property, and collection could only be made from money that was in his possession at the time of collection.

The Mishna relates that such a case came before Rabbi Yishmael, and that was the ruling that he offered. In response, Ben Nanas argued that an arev who signs the note after the witnesses will not be obligated to pay at all. He compared it to a case where someone came across a scene in the marketplace where a lender was choking someone who had borrowed from him and was demanding his money back. If that person stepped in and offered to pay the debt so that the borrower would be saved, surely he is not obligated to do so. Ben Nanas explains that in such a case the loan was originally made with no expectation that there was an arev involved, and no obligation was created at a later time with a simple verbal commitment. According to the Mishna, Rabbi Yishmael was so taken by this argument that he recommended that anyone who wanted to develop his intelligence should study the monetary laws, and whoever wanted to truly understand the monetary laws should become a student of Ben Nanas.

On our daf, the Gemara brings Rabbah bar bar Hannah who quotes Rabbi Yochanan as saying that Rabbi Yishmael may have offered praise to Ben Nanas, but that that halacha follows Rabbi Yishmael’s position. In fact, Rabbi Yaakov quotes Rabbi Yochanan as saying that Rabbi Yishmael disagreed with Ben Nanas even in the case of the choking lender in the marketplace. Thus, Rabbi Yishmael’s position was that an arev can fully commit himself to guarantee someone’s loan, even if it is not at the time that the loan was made. Such a guarantee, however, cannot create a lien on his property.

In addition to his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored dozens of books and hundreds of articles on a variety of topics, both Jewish and secular. For more information about Rabbi Steinsaltz’s groundbreaking work in Jewish education, visit or contact the Aleph Society at 212-840-1166.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.