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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Mezi'a

Baba Mezi'a 63a

for I interpret the Mishnayoth in accordance with his views. For R. Oshaia taught: If a man was his neighbour's creditor for a maneh, and he went and stood at his granary and said, 'Repay me my money, as I wish to purchase wheat therewith,' and he [the debtor] replied, 'I have wheat which I will supply you; go and charge me therewith against my debt at the current price.' The time came for selling,1  and he said to him, 'Give me the wheat,2  which I wish to sell and purchase wine with the proceeds;' to which he replied, 'I have wine; go and assess it for me at the current price.' Then the time came for selling wine, and he said to him, 'Give me my wine, for I wish to sell it and purchase oil for it;' to which he replied, 'I have oil to supply you; go and assess it for me at the current price:' in all these cases, if he possesses [these commodities] it is permitted; if not, it is forbidden.3  [So in the Mishnah.] And what is meant by 'IF A MAN PURCHASED'? He purchased against his debt.4  Raba said: Three deductions follow from R. Oshaia: [i] the debt may be offset against provisions, and we do not say, it is not as if the issar had come to his hand;5  [ii] but only if he [the debtor] possesses [these commodities]; and [iii] R. Jannai's view is correct, viz., what is the difference between them themselves [sc. the provisions] and the value thereof?6  For it was stated: Rab said: One may buy on trust against [future delivery of] crops, but not against [repayment of] money at [future prices].7  But R. Jannai said: What is the difference between them themselves [sc. the crops] and the value thereof?8

An objection was raised: In all these cases, if he possesses [these commodities], it is permitted.9  — R. Huna answered in Rab's name: This means that he drew [the produce into his possession].10  If he drew it into his possession, need it be taught?11  — But, e.g., he assigned a corner [of the granary] to him.12  Samuel said: This is taught in accordance with R. Judah, who ruled: One-sided usury is permitted.13  For it has been taught: If a man was his neighbour's creditor for a maneh, for which he [conditionally] sold him his field;14  if the vendor enjoys the usufruct, it is permitted; if the purchaser, it is forbidden.15  R. Judah ruled: Even if the purchaser has the usufruct, it is permitted.16  R. Judah said to them: It once happened that Boethus b. Zunin [conditionally] sold his field, with the approval of R. Eleazar b. Azariah, and the purchaser took the usufruct. Said they to him: [Would you adduce] proof from thence? The vendor enjoyed its usufruct, not the purchaser. Wherein do they17  differ? — Abaye said: They differ with respect to one-sided interest.18  Raba said: They differ with respect to interest [received] on condition that it shall be returned.19

Raba said: Now that R. Jannai ruled:

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. There was a time when wheat was generally sold, when it generally appreciated in value.
  2. He had not given it to him before.
  3. If the debtor actually possesses these commodities, as soon as he agrees to furnish him with a certain quantity thereof, that quantity belongs to the creditor, even if he does not actually take it; and if it appreciates, his own appreciates, and there is no suggestion of usury, even if the transaction is made several times, each time at an enhanced value. But if the debtor lacks them, and when the bargain is struck, actually receives no money, it has the appearance of a ruse to increase his indebtedness (v. p. 373, nn. 4, 6), and is thus like usury, and consequently forbidden.
  4. Thus: A owing a gold denar to B, credited him with a kor of wheat for it, which was the current price; then the kor appreciated to 30 denarii, and A credited B with wine to the value of 30 denarii. Actually Raba's explanation coincides with Rabbah's (supra 62b); this is particularly evident from the reading of R. Han. and Alfasi, given p. 374, n. 4, in which Raba uses the same words as Rabbah; Raba merely quotes R. Oshaia's dictum to dispose of the difficulties urged against Rabbah's explanation, as is seen in the deductions he makes: v. n. 2.
  5. This disposes of the criticism levelled on 62b against Rabbah's explanation on the strength of the Baraitha quoted there … R. Oshaia's dictum differs from that Baraitha, and Rabbah's interpretation, with which Raba's is identical (v. preceding note), agrees with R. Oshaia.
  6. The Talmud proceeds to explain this.
  7. I.e., a man may buy crops at present prices, paying immediately, for delivery at some future date, even though they may have appreciated in the meanwhile. But he may not arrange to receive the future value of the crops, for since he may thus receive in actual money more than he gave, it has the appearance of usury.
  8. Since he may receive the crops, though they represent more than was paid, he may also receive money in lieu thereof. R. Oshaia's ruling, that the creditor may be credited with wine calculated on the low price and according to the appreciated value of the wheat, supports this view, that the crops owing to him may be deemed as actual money.
  9. Quoted from the Baraitha of R. Oshaia cited above; as this supports R. Jannai (v. preceding note), it refutes Rab.
  10. Hence it is actually his own, and not merely a debt, and therefore the subsequent transactions are permitted; v. p. 374, n. 8.
  11. It is then obvious!
  12. Declaring, 'The wheat in this corner be yours for my debt.' R. Oshaia thus teaches that mere assignation has legal validity to render it his, and no longer a debt.
  13. I.e., that which might result in an appearance of usury, as in the case under discussion. For he may give him the crops, in which case there is no suspicion of usury: only when he gives money in lieu thereof, does it appear as such.
  14. 'If I do not repay by a certain date, the field is sold to you from now;' v. infra 65b.
  15. For should the money be repaid, he will have received usury thereon.
  16. For it is not certain that the field will be redeemed, in which case there is no usury. Hence it is regarded as 'one-sided' usury', which R. Judah permits.
  17. R. Judah and the Rabbis who oppose him.
  18. As explained above.
  19. I.e., even R. Judah admits that if the purchaser retains the crops after repayment, it is forbidden. But they differ where it is stipulated that if the loan is repaid, the creditor must return the value of the crops he has taken. R. Judah permits this arrangement, since thereby an infringement of usury is precluded, whilst the Rabbis maintain that even this is forbidden, for when he enjoys the usufruct it is actually interest on money lent (Rashi). Tosaf. explains that there is a real possibility of interest. Thus: should he fail to repay the entire loan, the creditor retains the whole value of the crops, even if it exceeds the deficit.
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Baba Mezi'a 63b

We reason, 'What is the difference between them themselves [sc. the crops] and their value?' we argue [conversely] too, 'What is the difference between their value and them themselves?' and [consequently] one may contract to supply [provisions] at the current market price even if he has none.1  R. papa and R. Huna the son of R. Joshua objected to Raba's [statement]: In all these cases, if he possesses [these commodities], it is permitted; if not, it is forbidden!2  — He answered them: There [the reference is to] a loan, here to a sale.

Rabbah and R. Joseph both said: Why did the Rabbis rule, A man may contract to supply [provisions] at the current market price, even if he has none? Because he [the purchaser] can say to him [the vendor], 'Take your favours and throw them in the bush! How do you benefit me? Had I money, I could have bought cheaply in Hini and Shili.'3  Abaye said to R. Joseph: If so, should it not be permitted to lend a se'ah for a se'ah, since he [the borrower] could say, Take your favours and throw them in the bush! For,' he could argue, 'would my wheat have gone to ruin in my granary?' — He replied: There it is a loan, here a purchase. R. Adda b. Abba said to Raba: But he would have to pay money to a broker!4  — He replied: He [the purchaser] must give that too to him. R. Ashi said: people's money is their broker.5

Rabbah and R. Joseph both said: He who advances money at the early market price6  must [personally] appear at the granary. For what purpose? If to acquire it — but he does not thereby acquire it!7  If that he [the vendor] may have to submit to [the curse], 'He who punished, etc.,'8  — even without his appearing there, he must submit thereto! — In truth, it is that he may submit to the curse; but he who advances money on an early market generally gives it to two or three people:9  hence, if he appears before him, [he shews] that he relies upon him [for supplies]; but if not, he [the vendor] can plead, 'I thought that you found better produce than mine, and bought it [intending that I should return your money].' R. Ashi said: Now that you say it is because of his relying upon him, then even if he met him in the market and said to him, ['I rely upon you',] he relies upon him.10

R. Nahman said: The general principle of usury is: All payment for waiting [for one's money] is forbidden. R. Nahman also said: If one gives money to a wax merchant, when it is priced at four [standard measures per zuz], and he [the vendor] proposes,'I will supply you five [per zuz];'11  if he possesses it, it is permitted; if not, it is forbidden. But this is obvious!12  — It is necessary [to teach this] only when he has [wax] credits in town:13  I might think that in such a case it is as though [he had said, 'Lend me] until my son comes, or until I find the key:'14  therefore he teaches, since it must yet be collected, it is as non-existent.

R. Nahman also said: If one borrows money from his neighbour and found a surplus therein, if it is an amount about which there could be an error, he must return it; otherwise, it is simply a gift. When is it 'an amount about which there could be an error'? — R. Abba, the son of R. Joseph said:

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. For, just as it is certainly permissible if he has the stock, so also when he has the money furnished by the purchaser to buy it, for there is no essential difference between stock and money. — In such passages the reference is to contracting ahead, when the crops are probably dearer.
  2. Quoted from R. Oshaia's Baraitha. Whereas Raba permits it even if he has none.
  3. [On Hini and Shili, v. B.B. (Sonc. ed.) p. 753, n. 6. There was the central corn market, which supplied corn throughout Northern Babylon, and where wheat was procurable at lower prices (v. Obermeyer, op. cit. p. 32). I.e., 'I could buy it there before the rise in prices,' and thus the purchaser derives no benefit by advancing the money to the seller. The question of usury consequently does not arise.]
  4. By paying for the wheat beforehand the buyer saves the broker's fee, which he would have had to pay each time he wanted to make a purchase. This saving constitutes interest on his money.
  5. I.e., if he can pay cash, he needs no intermediary.
  6. Soon after the harvest, before trade commences in earnest and a general price is fixed, there is some desultory selling at a low price. Buying ahead at this price is also permitted if the vendor has supplies.
  7. Merely by appearing there, but must draw it into his possession — perform meshika.
  8. V. supra 44a. So here too: the vendor should be morally bound, though the purchaser has not formally acquired it.
  9. Presumably because the vendor would not accept a large order.
  10. And thereby submits himself to the curse.
  11. If you accept it later, though paying the money now.
  12. As various Baraithas have already stated.
  13. I.e., he has already paid for stocks, which are now due to him.
  14. v. infra 75a; here too, I might regard it as being already in his possession, though temporarily inaccessible.
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