[Avodah] How does Prozbul work?

Akiva Miller via Avodah avodah at lists.aishdas.org
Fri Sep 4 06:30:18 PDT 2015

We recently had a thread which discusses the meaning of the word "mesorah".
Coincidentally or not, I'd like to ask about the meaning of the verb
"moser" as it occurs in the context of the Prozbul.

I'd like to begin by giving two different *colloquial* uses of "moser": It
can refer to the act of literally handing a fellow Jew to the authorities,
but it can also refer to merely informing the authorities about a fellow
Jew. My question about Prozbul is this: When the Prozbul says that the
lender is "moser" the loans to Beis Din, does he actually hand them over,
or does he merely inform?

For decades, I had thought that the lender actually gives the loans to the
Beis Din, in a manner similar to how anyone can use a commercial collection
agency: Usually, if someone owes me money, I can sell that debt to a
collection agency, but in the context of Shmitta, I give it as a gift to
the beis din. Then, the beis din authorizes me to collect the debt on their
behalf, and will allow me to retain 100% of it as my service fee.

With the above, I have accomplished three important things: (1) When Rosh
Hashana arrives, no one owes me anything, so I have no possibility of
violating any halachos of Shmitas Kesafim. (2) When I collect from the
borrower, I'm merely acting as an agent of beis din, to whom Lo Yigos does
not apply, so I'm not violating anything. (3) Although the lender did not
repay anything to me directly, my finances did not suffer, and future
Shmitos will not influence to me avoid lending.

BUT - From what I've learned, when a Prozbul is done, no kinyan ever occurs
between the lender and the Beis Din, not even a kinyan sudar of the sort
that I do when authorizing the rav to sell my chometz. Without a kinyan, I
can't see how the loan ever leaves the ownership of the lender.

So it is clear to me that Prozbul does NOT follow the "collection agency"
model. Is there some other model that it does follow?

The Mechaber Choshen Mishpat 67:8 talks about a situation that I will
presume occurs before Erev Rosh Hashana: "If one claims money, and the
other denies it, and the first sues in beis din and wins, and the psak din
is that the second one must pay - this is a gibui, and shmita does not
cancel it."

If I'm understanding this correctly, then when a court verdict declares the
A must pay B, this is not the sort of debt that shmita cancels, because the
requirement to pay does not come from any interaction between the two men,
but directly from the beis din's power. In other words, the lender can ask
the borrower for money, but he is not asking for the loan to be repaid;
rather, he is enforcing the court's ruling. This is a new obligation upon
the borrower, which was created by the court, and is therefore exempt from
Shmitas Kesafim.

Perhaps this is how Prozbul works: Without any evidence or documentation,
or even an itemized list, a person approaches the beis din and tells them
that there are debts which are owed to him. The beis din responds with a
court order that those debts must be paid. He can now collect them, because
it is the *Beis Din* that wants them to be paid (irrespective of the fact
that the lender wants them paid).

This explanation solves the problem of Lo Yigos: The lender is not pressing
the borrower for repayment of a personal loan; he is pressing the borrower
to pay the court judgment. But the personal loan does still exist, doesn't
it? The lender would still have an obligation to be personally m'shamet the
loan at some point, but I think most people think that the Prozbul relieves
them of that obligation.

I'm stumped. When the lender is "moser" the loan to Beis Din, exactly what
is happening?

Akiva Miller
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