Erechin 28b: Writing a Pruzbul Before Shmitah

Erechin 28b: Yovel and Shmittah take effect at the same time, Yovel at its beginning and Shmittah at its end. How do we know that Shmittah takes effect at its end? For it states, “At the end of seven years you shall make a Shmittah.” (Devarim 15:1)

Rosh, Gittin Chapter 4, section 18: The Tosefta in Shviis 8 says, “When do we write a pruzbul? On Erev Rosh Hashanah of Shviis.” One may write it earlier too, and the Tosefta just means that one cannot write it in the seventh year itself, for although Shviis only cancels loans at its end, still we do not write a pruzbul in Shviis.

The Rosh in section 20 continues to explain that there are two stages: during Shviis itself, the lender may no longer demand his money, but if the borrower pays voluntarily, he may accept it. After Shviis ends, even if the borrower pays voluntarily he may not accept it, but must say, “I forgive the loan.” Since the lender has no right to demand his money during Shviis itself, writing a pruzbul is ineffective at that time. 

ערכין כח ע”ב: תניא נמי הכי, נמצאת אתה אומר: אחד יובל ואחד שביעית משמטין כאחד, אלא שיובל בתחילתו והשמטה בסופה… בשלמא שביעית בסופה, דכתיב: (דברים ט״ו) מקץ שבע שנים תעשה שמטה.

שולחן ערוך חושן משפט סז,ל: אין שביעית משמטת כספים אלא בסופה לפיכך הלוה את חבירו בשביעית עצמה גובה חובו כל השנה בב״ד וכשתשקע חמה בליל ראש השנה של מוצאי שביעית אבד החוב.

רא”ש פרק השולח סימן יח: ותניא בתוספתא דשביעית פ”ח אימתי כותבין עליו פרוזבול ערב ראש השנה של שביעית והוא הדין קודם ולא בא למעט אלא בשנה שביעית דאף על גב דשביעית אינה משמטת אלא בסופה אפילו הכי אין כותבין פרוזבול. ושם בסימן כ: והא דאין כותבין פרוזבול בשביעית אע”פ שאינה משמטת אלא בסופה נראה לפרש הטעם על פי המקראות מקץ שבע שנים תעשה שמטה וזה דבר השמטה שמוט כל בעל משה ידו. מפשטיה דקרא ילפינן דאין שביעית משמטת אלא בסופה כדכתיב מקץ שבע שנים תעשה שמיטה וזה דבר השמיטה, שאינו אלא בסוף השבע, שמוט כל בעל משה ידו. אבל מיד כשהתחילה שנת השמיטה אין בית דין נזקקין לגבות שום חוב וגם המלוה בעצמו אין לו ליגוש הלוה דכתיב לא יגוש את רעהו ואת אחיו כי קרא שמטה לה’ – מיד שנכנסה השמיטה לא יגוש אבל אם יפרע הלוה מעצמו אין צריך לומר משמט אני, וכמו שאין נזקקין לגבות החוב כך אין נזקקין לכתוב פרוזבול מיד כשנכנסה שביעית.

One of the Chasam Sofer’s students wrote to him asking him to be the dayan on his pruzbul in the year 5564, the year before Shmittah, in keeping with the opinion of the Rosh. The Chasam Sofer responded, “I have a story about this. My rebbe (Rabbi Nosson Adler) zt”l wrote a pruzbul using me and one other person at the end of the year 5644, which was a Shmitah year. And I know that he did not make a pruzbul at the end of 5643, for I stayed by his side constantly, in order to learn his ways.”

The Chasam Sofer continues to explain why we do not need to worry about fulfilling the Rosh’s opinion. 1) There is a rule in psak that if one opinion is lenient in Eretz Yisroel, we follow that opinion outside of Eretz Yisroel. [Why is this rule relevant here? Forgiving loans in Shmittah applies equally in all parts of the world (Kiddushin 38b), so there is no reason to be more lenient in Chutz Laaretz than in Eretz Yisroel. But perhaps the Chasam Sofer was only borrowing this phrase and he really meant that if one opinion is lenient in First Temple times when Shmittah was a Torah obligation (see Gittin 36a with Rashi), then we follow that opinion today when Shmittah is only Rabbinic.]

2) The Rosh follows the Itur, and the Tur goes with the Rosh, but all the other Rishonim disagree. And the Ramban (Devarim 15:1) has the text in the Tosefta that we write the pruzbul on Erev Rosh Hashanah at the end of Shmittah. True, the Rosh does seem to have a point because the Torah says, “He shall not demand payment from his neighbor or brother, for he has called a Shmittah to Hashem.” It sounds like in Shmittah itself, one may not demand payment. But he just read the pesukim that way to support his incorrect girsa; actually, the girsa in the Tosefta is as the Ramban has it.

[Source: Teshuvos Chasam Sofer, Choshen Mishpat 50]

[The Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 67:19 and 21, presents two ways of doing a pruzbul. The first is to go before three dayanim and have them sign. This leads to the dispute between the Mechaber and the Rema in s’if 18, over whether these dayanim need to be experts appointed by the city, or just any three people. Most are lenient today because it is hard to get to a real beis din. The second way to do a pruzbul is to write the names of the three official dayanim on the document, but not actually bring it to them, but rather have it signed by two witnesses. It is clear from the Chasam Sofer’s words “me and one other person” that R’ Nosson Adler followed this second method.

It’s also fascinating that the Chasam Sofer followed his rebbe so closely that he was able to testify that he did not do a pruzbul in the previous year.]

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