סקר
מסכת בבא קמא:





 

Steinsaltz

This mishna is referring not to one who finds an ordinary promissory note but to one who finds deeds of transfer. This refers to a promissory note that establishes a lien on the debtor’s property from the date the note is written, regardless of when he borrows the money. Because the debtor obligated himself from that date, the creditor has the legal right to repossess his land from any subsequent purchasers.

The Gemara asks: If that is so, the following difficulty arises: How will one account for the ruling of the mishna here, which teaches that if the promissory notes include a property guarantee, the finder should not return them to the creditor; and we established that the reference is to a case when the debtor admits that he still owes the debt and that the promissory note should not be returned due to suspicion that perhaps the debtor wrote it with the intention to borrow the money in Nisan but did not actually borrow it until Tishrei, and therefore, if the promissory note is returned to the creditor he will come to repossess the land from the purchasers unlawfully. If Rav Asi’s explanation is correct, why shouldn’t the finder return the document?

The Gemara elaborates: Let us see what the possibilities are. If the reference is to a deed of transfer, didn’t the debtor obligate himself that his property can be collected for payment of the loan from the date that the deed of transfer was written? Conversely, if the reference is to a promissory note that is not a deed of transfer, there is no room for concern, as you said that in such a case, when the lender is not present together with the borrower, we do not write such a document.

The Gemara answers: Rav Asi could have said to you: Although we do not write promissory notes that are not deeds of transfer when the lender is not present together with the borrower, with regard to the case in the mishna it can be explained that since the promissory note was dropped, its credibility was compromised, and consequently we are concerned that perhaps it happened to have been written in the absence of the lender, deviating from the standard procedure.

Abaye stated an alternative explanation of the mishna that allows one to write a promissory note for a borrower in the absence of the lender: The document’s witnesses, with their signatures, acquire the lender’s lien on the borrower’s land on the lender’s behalf, despite the fact that the loan did not occur yet. And this applies even with regard to promissory notes that are not deeds of transfer.

Abaye offered this explanation because Rav Asi’s explanation was difficult for him; since you said with regard to promissory notes that are not deeds of transfer that we do not write them when the lender is not present together with the borrower, there is no reason for concern that perhaps in the case of a found promissory note it happened to be written in the lender’s absence.

The Gemara asks: But how can Abaye’s opinion be reconciled with that which we learned in a mishna (18a): If one found bills of divorce, or bills of manumission of slaves, or wills [deyaitiki], or deeds of gift, or receipts, he may not return them to the people who are presumed to have lost them. The reason is that perhaps they were only written and not delivered, because the one who wrote them subsequently reconsidered about them and decided not to deliver them. The Gemara asks: If he reconsidered and decided not to deliver them, what of it? Didn’t you say that a document’s witnesses, with their signatures, acquire it on behalf of the recipient? If so, why shouldn’t it be returned to him?

The Gemara answers: This statement, that a creditor acquires the lien on the debtor’s land immediately when the witnesses sign the document, applies only in a case where the document came into the creditor’s possession; but in a case where the document did not come into his possession, as it was never given to him, we do not say that.

The Gemara asks: Rather, how can the mishna be reconciled with Abaye’s opinion? As it teaches: With regard to one who found promissory notes, if they include a property guarantee, he may not return them to the creditor. And we established that the mishna is referring to a case when the liable party, i.e., the debtor, admits to the debts, and nevertheless the finder may not return the note due to the suspicion that perhaps he wrote the promissory note with the intention to borrow the money in Nisan but he did not actually borrow it until Tishrei.

The Gemara elaborates: Granted, according to Rav Asi, who says that the halakha that a promissory note may be written for a borrower in the absence of the lender applies only with regard to deeds of transfer, the mishna can be established as referring to promissory notes that are not deeds of transfer, and it is as we stated above. But according to Abaye, who says that a document’s witnesses, with their signatures, acquire the lien on the lender’s behalf, what is there to say? Why shouldn’t one return the promissory notes even if they include a property guarantee for the loan?

The Gemara answers that Abaye could have said to you that this is the reason for the ruling in the mishna: It is that the tanna suspects that there was repayment and collusion. Although the debtor admits his debt, he is suspected to be lying, as after he repaid the debt he might have colluded with the creditor to repossess land that he sold during the period of the loan, and the debtor and creditor would split the money between them.

The Gemara asks: But according to Shmuel, who says that we do not suspect repayment and collusion, what is there to say? How can the mishna be explained? This works out well if Shmuel holds in accordance with the opinion of Rav Asi, who says that only in the case of deeds of transfer is it permitted to write a promissory note for a borrower in the absence of the lender. Accordingly, Shmuel can establish the mishna as referring to promissory notes that are not deeds of transfer. But if Shmuel holds in accordance with the opinion of Abaye, who says that a document’s witnesses, with their signatures, acquire the lien on the creditor’s behalf, what is there to say?

The Gemara answers: Shmuel can establish the mishna as referring to a case when the purported liable party does not admit to the debt, and therefore the finder may not return the promissory notes to the creditor.

The Gemara asks: If so, in a case when the promissory notes do not include a property guarantee, why must the finder return them to the purported creditor? Granted, the creditor cannot collect the debt from liened property that had been sold, but he can collect it from the debtor’s unsold property, even though the debtor claims to be exempt.

The Gemara answers: Shmuel conforms to his standard line of reasoning, as Shmuel says that Rabbi Meir would say: In the case of a promissory note that does not include a property guarantee, the creditor collects neither from liened property that has been sold nor from unsold property. Therefore, there is no harm in the finder returning the promissory note to the creditor.

The Gemara asks: But since the creditor cannot collect the debt, why should the finder return the promissory note? For what purpose can the creditor use it? Rabbi Natan bar Oshaya says: The creditor can use it to cover the opening of his flask. Its only value is as a piece of paper.

The Gemara asks: If the document has only the value of the paper, let the finder return it to the debtor, to cover the opening of the debtor’s flask. The Gemara answers: The debtor is

Talmud - Bavli - The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren No=C3=A9 Talmud
with commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Israel (CC-BY-NC 4.0)
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