Previous Folio / Baba Mezi'a Contents / Tractate List / Navigate Site

Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Mezi'a

Baba Mezi'a 71a

the [minimum] requirements of a livelihood.1  Rabina said: Here [in the Mishnah] the reference is to scholars. For why did the Rabbis enact this precautionary measure?2  Lest he learn of his ways.3  But being a scholar, he will [certainly] not learn of his ways.

Others referred this statement of R. Huna to [the teaching] which R. Joseph learnt: If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee:4  [this teaches, if the choice lies between] my people and a heathen, 'my people' has preference; the poor or the rich — the 'poor' takes precedence; thy poor [sc. thy relatives] and the [general] poor of thy town — thy poor come first; the poor of thy city and the poor of another town — the poor of thine own town have prior rights. The Master said: '[If the choice lies between] my people and a heathen — "my people" has preference.' But is it not obvious? — R. Nahman answered: Huna told me it means that even if [money is lent] to the heathen on interest, and to the Israelite without [the latter should take precedence].

It has been taught: R. Jose said: Come and see the blindness of usurers. If a man calls his neighbour wicked, he cherishes a deep-seated animosity against him;5  whilst they bring witnesses, a notary, pen and ink, and record and attest, 'So-and-so has denied the God of Israel.'6

It has been taught: R. Simeon b. Eleazar said: He who has money and lends it without interest, of him Scripture writes. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved;7  thus you learn that he who does lend on interest, his wealth8  dissolves.9  But do we not see [people] who do not lend on interest, yet their wealth dissolves? — R. Eleazar said: The latter sink [into poverty] but re-ascend, whereas the former sink but do not re-ascend.10

Wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?11  R. Huna said: 'the man that is [merely] more righteous than he,' he devoureth: but the man that is completely righteous, he cannot devour.

It has been taught: Rabbi said: The righteous proselyte12  who is mentioned in connection with the sale [of oneself for a slave], and the resident alien who is mentioned with reference to usury — I know not their purpose. 'The righteous proselyte who is mentioned in connection with a sale' — as it is written, And if thy brother that dwelleth with thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee;13  and not only 'unto thee' [a Hebrew], but even to a proselyte, as it is written, [and sell himself] unto a proselyte;14  and not alone to a righteous proselyte, but even to a resident alien, as it is written, to a proselyte [and] a settler;15  or to a family of the proselyte — i.e., to a heathen; hence, when it is said, or to the stock etc. it must refer to one who sells himself to the service of the idol itself.16

Now,17  the Master said: 'And not only unto thee, but even unto a proselyte,' as it is written, [and sell himself] unto a proselyte.' Are we to say that a proselyte may acquire a Hebrew slave? But the following contradicts it: A proselyte cannot be acquired as a Hebrew slave, nor may a woman or a proselyte acquire a Hebrew slave. 'A proselyte cannot be acquired as a Hebrew slave', for the verse, and he shall return unto his own family, must be applicable. which it is not [in the case of a proselyte];18  'nor may a woman or a proselyte acquire a Hebrew slave' — a woman, because it is not seemly;19  a proselyte, because it is a tradition that he who can be acquired can himself acquire, but he who cannot be acquired, cannot himself acquire! — R. Nahman b. Isaac said: He cannot acquire [him] under the provisions of an Israelite [owner], but may acquire [him] as a non-Israelite [master]. For it has been taught: He [sc. a Hebrew slave] whose ear is bored,20  and he who is sold to a heathen, serve neither the son nor the daughter.21

The Master said: 'Nor may a woman or a proselyte acquire a Hebrew slave.' Must we assume that this disagrees with R. Simeon b. Gamaliel? For it has been taught: A woman may acquire female but not male slaves. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel ruled: She may acquire even male slaves! — It may agree even with R. Simeon b. Gamaliel, yet there is no difficulty: the former applies to a Hebrew slave, the latter to a Canaanite slave. A Hebrew slave she deems to be self-respecting;22  whereas a Canaanite slave she deems unreservedly dissolute.23  But what of that which R. Joseph learned: A widow may not breed dogs,24  nor permit a scholar to live with her as a boarder? Now, [the prohibition] of a scholar is intelligible, since she deems him self-respecting; but as for a dog since it will follow her [if she commits bestiality], she will surely be afraid!25  — I will tell you: since it follows her even if she merely throws it a piece of meat, that will be assumed the cause of its attachment.26

'The resident alien who is mentioned with reference to usury:' — What is it? — For it is written, And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him; yea, though he be a proselyte or a settler, that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him nor increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee.27  But the following opposes it: ONE MAY BORROW FROM AND LEND TO THEM ON INTEREST; THE SAME APPLIES TO A RESIDENT ALIEN! — R. Nahman b. Isaac replied: Is it then written, 'Take thou no usury of them'?28  'of him' is written, [meaning] of an Israelite.29

Our Rabbis taught: Take thou no usury of him, or increase, but thou mayest become a surety for him.30

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. But one may not take usury from a Gentile in order to accumulate wealth.
  2. Of forbidding usury from a heathen, on R. Nahman's view. Though R. Nahman based his opinion on a verse of Proverbs, it is obvious that it is only a Rabbinical, not a Biblical interdict.
  3. Rashi: Through business intercourse with him.
  4. Ex. XXII, 24.
  5. Lit., 'descends (in his rage) against his life'.
  6. To exact usury in defiance of the Biblical precept is tantamount to rejection of God — the highest degree of wickedness.
  7. Ps. XV, 5.
  8. Lit., 'his possessions.'
  9. I.e., he is 'moved'.
  10. Translating, he that doeth these things shall not for ever be moved, i.e., shall not sink into penury for good.
  11. Hab. I, 13.
  12. [ [H] 'Righteous' in the sense of 'upright', 'genuine', 'real'. V. Moore, op. cit. I, 338.]
  13. Lev. XXV, 39.
  14. Ibid. 47.
  15. Ibid. This deduction is arrived at by treating [H], (proselyte) and [H] (settler, citizen) as two separate substantives, thus: and sell himself unto a proselyte and unto a resident alien. i. e., even as they are treated at the beginning of the verse: and if a proselyte ([H]) or a settler ([H]) wax rich etc. (Rashal).
  16. To hew wood and draw water in its service. This Baraitha is quoted more fully in 'Ar. 20b; the successive depths of degradation are the fate of him who trades in the commodities of the seventh year, this being deduced from the fact that these laws of sale follow those of the seventh year prohibitions.
  17. He now proceeds to explain Rabbi's difficulty.
  18. V. Lev. XXV, 10. Because a proselyte loses all relationship with his former kin, hence has no family.
  19. Lest she be suspected of immoral designs.
  20. V. Ex. XXI, 5f.
  21. As heirs. Thus, a proselyte can acquire a Hebrew slave under the laws applicable to a heathen owner, so that if he dies his children do not inherit him (the slave), but not as an Israelite, who is able to transmit him as a legacy.
  22. I.e., he has a feeling of shame and regard for appearances. Therefore she may be emboldened to an illicit relationship, in the certainty that he will not disclose the fact: hence she may not purchase him.
  23. Feeling no shame therein; therefore she fears intimacy with him, lest he boast thereof, and so may buy him.
  24. For fear of malicious slander, but not because she is actually suspected of bestiality (Tosaf.).
  25. Why is she then forbidden to breed dogs?
  26. Hence she does not fear to commit bestiality, and though, as stated in n. 3, she is not suspected thereof, yet the mere fact that she can indulge without fear of discovery gives tongue to slander.
  27. Lev. XXV, 35f; this implies that usury may not be taken from a citizen proselyte.
  28. Which would apply to all the antecedents.
  29. ['Proselyte' being mentioned only with reference to assisting him in his need.]
  30. I.e., for one who is borrowing money on interest.
Tractate List / Glossary / / Bible Reference

Baba Mezi'a 71b

A surety to whom? Shall we say to an Israelite?1  But we learnt: The following violate the negative precept: The lender, the borrower, the surety, and the witnesses!2  Again if it means to a heathen:3  since, however, it is the law of the heathen4  to claim direct from the surety, it is he [the surety] who borrows from him!5  — R. Shesheth answered: It means that he engaged himself to bring his actions in accordance with Jewish law.6  But if he engaged to abide by Jewish law, he should not take usury either! — R. Shesheth replied: He pledged himself for the one but not for the other.

AN ISRAELITE MAY LEND A HEATHEN'S MONEY [ON INTEREST] WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE HEATHEN, BUT NOT OF THE ISRAELITE. Our Rabbis taught: An Israelite may lend a heathen's money [on interest] with the knowledge of the heathen, but not of the Israelite. E.g., if an Israelite borrowed money from a heathen on interest, and was about to repay it, when another Israelite met him and proposed. 'Give it to me and I will pay you as you pay him' — that is forbidden; but if he presented him to the heathen,7  it is permitted.8  Similarly, if a heathen borrowed money from an Israelite on interest, and was about to repay it, when another Israelite met him and proposed. 'Give it to me, and I will pay you as you pay him,' it is permitted; but if he presented him to the Israelite, it is forbidden.9  Now, the second clause is well, for there the ruling is in the direction of greater stringency; but as for the first clause, since the law of agency does not apply to a heathen, it is he [the Israelite] who takes interest from him [his fellow-Israelite]!10  — R. Huna b. Manoah said in the name of R. Aha, the son of R. Ika: Here it is meant that he [the heathen] said to him [the Israelite], 'put it [the money] on the ground and you may go.'11  If so, why state it? — But, said R. Papa, it means, e.g., that he [the heathen] took it [from the first creditor] and personally gave it [to the second]. Yet even so, why state it? — I might think that the heathen himself, in acting so, transfers the money pursuant to the wish of the Israelite,12  therefore it is taught otherwise. R. Ashi said: When do we maintain that agency cannot be vested in a heathen, only in reference to terumah;13  but in all other Biblical matters the principle of agency holds good in the case of a heathen. This [distinction], however, of R. Ashi must be rejected.14  For why does terumah differ, that [agency] is not [allowed to a heathen]? Because it is written, [Thus] ye, ye also [shall offer an heave offering etc.],15  [teaching], just as ye are members of the Covenant, so also must your deputies be members of the Covenant! But [is not] the principle of agency, as applied to all Biblical matters, derived from terumah!16  Hence R. Ashi's distinction is to be rejected.

Others state: R. Ashi said: In what sense do we maintain that agency cannot be vested in a heathen, only that they cannot be agents for us; but we can be agents for them.17  But this [distinction] of R. Ashi is to be rejected. For why the difference, that they cannot be agents for us? Because it is written, 'Ye, ye also', which teaches the inclusion of your agents; just as 'ye' are members of the Covenant, so must your agents be members of the Covenant? But with reference to ourselves being agents to them, does not the same [exegesis] apply: by 'just as "ye" [who appoint agents],' members of Covenant are meant.18  Hence R. Ashi's distinction is non-acceptable.

Rabina said: Though a heathen has no power of agency, yet, by Rabbinical law, one can obtain possession on his behalf. For this is similar to a minor: surely, a minor, though excluded from the principle of agency,

- To Next Folio -

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. I.e., on behalf of a Jew borrowing from a Jew.
  2. Infra 75b.
  3. I.e., a surety on behalf of a Jewish borrower to a Gentile lender.
  4. [I.e., according to Persian law, v. B.B. 173b.]
  5. From the point of view of Jewish law there are two transactions in this loan: the surety borrows money from the Gentile and pays interest thereon, and lends money to the Jew, upon which he receives interest. Hence it should be forbidden.
  6. Should the debtor fail to repay, he would bring an action against him first.
  7. I.e., obtained the Gentile's authority for the transaction.
  8. For then the Jew is merely the agent of the Gentile, and it is the latter who makes the loan, not the former.
  9. For then the Gentile is merely the agent of the Jew.
  10. There is a well-defined principle in Jewish law that a man's agent is legally as himself. But this does not hold good between a Jew and a heathen. Now, in the second clause, where the heathen presents the Jewish borrower to the Jewish lender, yet actually gives his own money, the transaction should be permitted, because he cannot be legally regarded as the Jew's agent. Nevertheless, since the transaction does appear as between two Jews, the heathen acting merely as a vehicle of delivery, the Rabbis recognised the principle of agency, and forbade it. But in the first clause, where the Jew actually gives the money to his fellow-Jew, why should he be regarded as an agent of the heathen, and the transaction rendered legal?
  11. So that the second Jew does not receive it from the first.
  12. I.e., that he is merely the means of the actual loan from one Jew to another.
  13. V. Glos. A Jew cannot appoint a heathen to separate his terumah for him.
  14. [H] V. Supra, p. 47, n. 1.
  15. Num. XVIII, 28. It would have been sufficient to state, 'Thus ye shall offer etc.'; it is a general principle of exegesis that 'also' ([H]) denotes extension; hence 'ye also' implies that someone besides yourselves may separate your terumah. At the same time, since the extension is directly applied to 'ye', those whom it includes must be similar to 'ye'.
  16. In Kid. 41b; hence just as a heathen cannot be deputed to separate terumah, so he is invalid in all other matters.
  17. Hence in the first clause under discussion the loan is permissible, if the second Jew was presented to the heathen, even if the money passed directly from one Jew to another.
  18. I.e., the same exegesis which shows that the agents must be Jews, also shews that the principals must be Jews.
Tractate List / Glossary / / Bible Reference