1) SUMMARY: TWO MEN WHO OWE MONEY TO EACH OTHER, AND ONE OF THEM DIES
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses the Halachah of "Metaltelei d'Yasmi Lo Mishta'abdei" -- the chattel (movable property) of heirs is not collateralized for the debt of their father. Only land that they inherit from their father can be subject to a lien for the debt of their father. Rami bar Chama demonstrates this law with the following scenario.
When two men, Reuven and Shimon, owe each other money, under normal circumstances each one may hold on to the money he owes to the other, and in this way their debts to each other are cancelled. However, if Reuven dies and leaves no land to his children from which his creditor can collect, the situation changes. Reuven's heirs are entitled to collect the debt that Shimon owed to their father, but Shimon is not entitled to collect from Reuven's children the debt that Reuven owed to him (because their father left them no land, and they are not obligated to pay with Metaltelin). Shimon must pay his debt to Reuven (i.e., to Reuven's heirs), and he is unable to collect the debt that Reuven owed to him.
Rava rules that if Shimon pays his debt to Reuven's children with land, then the children now have land which Shimon can collect as repayment for the debt owed to him by Reuven. The Gemara infers from Rava's ruling that Shimon's repayment of the debt is retroactive; it is considered as though he returned the land to Reuven at the time that he took the original loan. Consequently, that land is considered part of the inheritance that Reuven left to his children. If Shimon's debt to Reuven was incurred at or before the time that Reuven's debt to Shimon was incurred, then Shimon may give land to Reuven's children as repayment for his debt, and then he may collect that land from Reuven's children as repayment for the debt owed to him. By paying his debt to Reuven with land, he is able to collect Reuven's debt to him which he otherwise would not have been able to collect.
The exact case that the Gemara addresses is as follows. Shimon bought a field from Reuven, with a guarantee ("Achrayus," see Background to the Daf) that if something happens to the land as a result of Reuven's liability (for example, creditors of Reuven take the land away from Shimon), Reuven will reimburse Shimon. However, Shimon never paid Reuven for the land, but instead kept the money as a loan which he agreed to pay back to Reuven at a later time.
Reuven died, and a creditor indeed came and demanded the land from Shimon as payment for a debt owed to him by Reuven -- thereby activating Reuven's guarantee for the field Shimon bought and obligating Reuven to compensate Shimon for the field. Consequently, Reuven now owes Shimon payment for the guarantee on the field, and Shimon owes Reuven the original purchase value of the field. This is a good example of a case where two men owed each other money, and one of them died and left his children exempt from any obligation to pay his debt (if he did not leave them any land as an inheritance).
The Rishonim address a question on the Gemara's case. The Gemara adds that when Reuven's creditor came to collect the field from Shimon, Shimon did not give the field itself to the creditor, but instead he gave him the value of the field (in cash). Why does the Gemara add this point? What difference does it make whether Shimon gave the field itself to the creditor, or he gave money? In either case, Reuven becomes responsible to reimburse Shimon for the debt that Shimon paid the creditor on his behalf! Whether Shimon gave land or cash, a mutual debt is created, whereby Shimon owes money to Reuven and Reuven owes money to Shimon. Rava's statement with regard to how Shimon can avoid a capital loss applies just the same.
(a) TOSFOS (DH u'Payesei) explains that Rami bar Chama is teaching an additional Chidush. In Rami bar Chama's case, if Shimon pays Reuven's creditor with land, it is obvious that Shimon is not entitled to compensation from Reuven's children (because they do not have any land to give to him). Shimon cannot collect the "Achrayus" from Reuven's children if they did not inherit land. Shimon's debt to Reuven, on the other hand, remains and he is obligated to pay the children the value of the field.
However, now that Shimon pays the creditor with the value of the field (cash), it is necessary to teach that Shimon still owes money to Reuven (for the purchase of the land) and that Reuven still owes money to Shimon (for the land that was expropriated). We might have thought that Shimon, by paying cash, is not relying on the "Achrayus" of the field to be his source for reimbursement. Rather, we might have thought that Shimon is giving the original money that he kept back at the time he purchased the field, which is money that belongs to Reuven that Shimon happens to be holding. That is, Shimon is paying Reuven's money to Reuven's creditor on Reuven's behalf, like a Shali'ach (and he is not paying his own money to Reuven's creditor). Accordingly, we might have thought that Shimon is exempt from paying his old debt to Reuven's children, since he now passed that money on to Reuven's creditors as a middleman for Reuven, instead of giving it to Reuven's children (as payment that he owed for the land). Shimon now owes nothing to Reuven, and Reuven owes nothing to Shimon.
In fact, TOSFOS (DH b'Achrayus) and other Rishonim point out that if, at the time of the purchase of the field, Shimon did not keep the money he owed for the land specifically as a loan (that is, he did not set a later time for repayment), but he merely procrastinated paying Reuven, then the money which he holds actually belongs to Reuven, and the above ruling would be true. After Reuven's death, Shimon could give that money directly to the creditor as a way of giving the money to Reuven. However, now that he turned the money that he owes for the field into a loan, he may no longer say that he has Reuven's money in his hands. Rather, he has a debt to Reuven (and the money he is holding is his own). Therefore, Reuven's children may say to Shimon, "We hereby demand the money that you owe us. You gave your own money to our father's creditor, and not our father's money, and we are not obligated to cover the guarantee for you, because we do not have any land."
This is also the intention of RASHI (DH u'Mes Reuven ("b'Osan Ma'os..."), and DH Dina Hu).
(b) The MAHARAM CHALAVAH explains that if the money for the field was not made into a loan, but Shimon merely procrastinated paying Reuven, then the reason why Shimon could pay the creditor and thereby exempt himself from paying Reuven's children is not because the money he is holding is simply Reuven's money, but because he still has the option to withdraw from the deal. Since he has not yet paid for the field, the deal has not been consummated. Shimon may say to Reuven's children, "I do not have to pay you the value of the field anymore, because I am withdrawing from the deal and am not buying the land." He keeps the land, though, as reimbursement for Reuven's debt that he paid to the creditor.
The Gemara mentions that Shimon paid money to the creditor, instead of giving the field itself, only to teach the Halachah in a case in which he did not convert the money he was holding back into a loan. If the money he was holding was not a loan, then not only could Shimon retract the deal, give the field to the creditor, and not pay Reuven for the field, but he could even give the value of the field (in cash) to the creditor and claim that he never bought the field from Reuven, and owe nothing to Reuven's children. (Why, then, does he keep the field, if he cancelled the purchase? He keeps the field because he claims that when he paid Reuven's money to the creditor, it was as though he gave the field to the creditor and then bought it back.) In summary, when the Gemara says that Shimon paid Reuven's creditor with money, it teaches what the Halachah would be in a case in which Shimon did not convert the value of the field into a loan.
2) PAYING BACK A DEBT WITH LAND
QUESTION: Rava teaches that if Shimon is clever, he will pay back the debt he owes to the heirs of Reuven with land and not with money. The heirs then will have land with which to pay their debt to Shimon.
What right does Shimon have to choose to pay his debt with land? The Gemara in Kesuvos (86a) says that when one repays a loan, he must repay with cash (if he has any) and not with land.
(a) RASHI (DH Iy Pike'ach) says that he could claim that he has no money but only land.
(b) TOSFOS in Kesuvos (92a, DH Iy; see also MAGID MISHNEH, Hilchos Malveh v'Loveh 11:10) writes that when a debtor will incur a loss if he pays back his debt with cash, then he is permitted to pay back with land. Only when he will incur no loss by paying back with cash is he required to do so. In the case of the Gemara here, if Shimon pays back with cash, he will incur a loss, because the heirs of Reuven are not obligated to pay back their father's debt with cash.
(c) The RA'AVAD, cited by the MAHARAM CHALAVAH and others, explains that Rava maintains that if Shimon bought land from Reuven on credit, even though he has converted the money that he owes for the land into a loan, he may cancel the purchase and give back the same land that Reuven sold to him. Consequently, when he returns the land he cancels the loan and does not have to pay cash for any purchase; he merely gives back the land which he decided not to buy. Shimon is then entitled to reclaim the land as reimbursement for paying money on Reuven's behalf to Reuven's creditor.
3) "L'MAFREI'A HU GOVEH" -- RETROACTIVE OWNERSHIP OF COMPENSATION
QUESTION: When a man dies owing money, his children are not obligated to pay his debt if he did not leave them any land (see beginning of Insights to Pesachim 31:1). RASHI (DH Dina Hu) explains why the heirs are obligated to pay their father's debt only when they inherit land, but not when they inherit money (or movable property). The ownership of land is never in doubt; hence, if the heirs have land which belonged to their father, it is known beyond a doubt that it belonged to their father. Consequently, the creditor may collect that land as repayment for the father's debt. In contrast, money and other objects in the hands of the heirs cannot be proven to have belonged to the father. The actual notes of legal tender in the hands of the heirs were not necessarily the same ones that were in the father's possession when he was alive. Since they might have come into the hands of the children after the father died, there is no lien on them. Shimon borrowed the father's money, not the children's.
Rashi expresses this more clearly in Bava Kama (14b, DH b'Yasmi), where he says that the reason one may not collect from the chattel (movable property) of children who inherited their father's debt is because perhaps they bought it after their father's death; that is, it is not known to have belonged to the father. (In fact, the Gemara in Bava Kama (14b) and Kesuvos (84b) states that if a creditor seized money without permission from the borrower before the borrower died, he may keep the money he seized. Even though the creditor may not collect money once it is in the hands of the borrower's children, he may keep the money he seized during the borrower's lifetime. That money is known beyond a doubt to have belonged to the borrower.)
How does Rashi apply this logic to the case of the Gemara here? The Gemara assumes at this point that when a creditor collects his money, "l'Mafrei'a Hu Goveh" -- the money or property which he collects is considered to have been in his possession, retroactively, from the time that the loan was issued. If the money or property which he collects from the borrower is considered to have been in his possession from the time of the loan, then why does Rava say that Shimon should repay Reuven's children with land if he wants to be reimbursed for the debt that Reuven owes to him? Even if he pays back with money, the rule that one cannot collect the money of the heirs does not apply here, because the money that Shimon pays back for his debt retroactively belongs to Reuven. Thus, it is known for certain that this money belonged to Reuven, the borrower, and Shimon should be able to collect it! (DEVAR SHMUEL)
ANSWER: Rashi seems to express a novel opinion here with regard to the principle of "l'Mafrei'a Hu Goveh." Apparently, Rashi maintains that "l'Mafrei'a Hu Goveh" applies only when the borrower pays back with land. If he pays back with cash (or other movable property), that cash (or other property) is not considered to have belonged to the lender retroactively.
What is the logic behind this distinction? Perhaps the logic is as follows. When Shimon gives cash to Reuven as repayment for a loan, it is possible that the cash was not in Shimon's possession at the time he took the loan. The cash that Shimon gives to Reuven cannot be considered to have been Reuven's retroactively from the time of the loan, because at that time this cash was not in Shimon's possession. How can Shimon give to Reuven something which Shimon himself does not own at the time?
In contrast, there is never any doubt about the ownership of land. If Shimon pays back his debt with land, it is known for certain whether or not he owned this land at the time he took the loan.
Therefore, when Shimon pays cash to Reuven's children, he cannot subsequently collect it from them as repayment for Reuven's debt to him, because the cash does not become their father's retroactively.
(How is this approach consistent with the Mishnah? The Mishnah says that when a person uses Chametz as collateral for a loan, when the debt goes unpaid and the lender collects the Chametz in place of money, it does belong to him retroactively. The answer is that the case of the Mishnah refers to when the Chametz existed at the time of the original loan and was set aside at the time of the loan for that purpose (collateral for the loan). Therefore, it can become the lender's property retroactively.) (M. KORNFELD)