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Shemittah and Shevuot

Shevuot (7:8) | Yisrael Bankier | 2 days ago

The seventh perek of Shevuot ends with the statement that the Shemittah year absolves the obligation to make a shevuah. The Bartenura explains that this comment is not related to the shevuot discussed in this chapter, but rather the shevuah demanded of a borrower that has partially admitted to the claim against him.

The Tosfot Yom Tov cites the Gemara (49a) that provides a source for the law. "This is the matter (davar) regarding Shemittah". The Chachamim understand that the use of the word davar, also meaning word, implies that not just loans are absolved in the shemittah years, but also "words" that are owed, i.e. a shevuah.

He continues citing the Ran that questions the need for a pasuk. The obligation to make a shevuah was based on a partial admission to money owed. Since shmittah absolved that debt, if there is not loan, clearly there is no requirement for a shevuah!

The Ran continues by citing the Yerushalmi that teaches that shemittah does not absolve any loan that was denied.1 This implies that since the lender claimed his money back prior to the shemittah year and the borrower denied part of the sum, shemittah does not absolve that part of the loan he denied. Consequently, since the shevuah related to the part of the loan that was not absolved, were it not for the pasuk, one might have thought that the shevuah could be demanded even after the shemittah year. He continues that the pasuk teaches us that since shemittah absolve the part of the loan that the borrowed admitted to, it is considered as if the borrower denied the entire claim against him and as we have learnt, would not be required to make a shevuah.

The Rashash cites the Shulchan Aruch (ChM 67:8) that writes that if Beit Din ruled regarding a disputed loan, obligating the borrower to pay, then shemittah does not absolve that loan because it is considered as if it is already collected. Consequently, according to the above explanation, that after shemitta the borrower is considered as if he denied the full claim against him, if Beit Din wrote a ruling obligating the partial payment, then not only would the obligation to pay the amount he admitted to endure, but the shevuah also. This is because even after the shmittah year, the borrower would still be considered as having partially admitted to the claim made against him.

The Rashash however prefers a simpler explanation. The shevuah stands in place of a payment. Consequently, the obligation to make the shevuah is considered like a loan itself. If the person had been absolved of the requirement to pay the loan (had he admitted), then he is absolved of making a shevuah that took its place.

A different understanding of the Ran can be found in the Grach (Shemittah 9:6). He cites the Minchat Chinnuch who asks that the obligation to make the shevuah arises at the time of the claim. It is irrelevant whether later the borrower is defined as having fully denied the claim against him. because the obligation is set at the time of the original claim. The Grach therefore suggest that the Ran was trying to solve a different problem. It is indeed a Torah decree that the obligation to make the shevuah is absolved. The question however is, since part of the loan endures (as explained above) why can the lender not the make a claim again and recreated the obligation to make a shevuah? It is this question the Ran addresses and explains that the borrower's response to the second claim would be considered as a complete denial.

The Tosfot R' Akiva Eiger cites the Teshuvot Toldot Adam (372) of the Rashba who provides another answer for the necessity of the pasuk. Consider the case where on made a shevuah to pay the loan when it was due, and the due date was after the shemittah year. It is regarding this shevuah that the pasuk was referring. Were it not for the pasuk one might have thought that the shevuah would obligate him to pay off the loan. Even though the creditor is obligated to say the debt is absolved, one could think that the borrower's shevuah would obligated to pay. Consequently, the pasuk is required to teach that that that shevuah, obligating him to pay, is also absolved.


1 The Rambam (Shemittah 9:8) rules like this Yerushalmi.

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