Sat, 09/04/2016

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At the end of seven years you will make a release. And this is the manner of the release: to release the hand of every creditor from what he lent his friend; he shall not exact from his friend or his brother, because the time of the release for Hashem has arrived. (Devarim 15:1–2)

Dear Friends

The year 5775, whose end we are fast approaching, is a Shemitta or Sabbatical year which gives me the opportunity to highlight a rather rare and special mitzvah.

The law of the Shemitta year has two components “release of the land” and release of money [debts].” 

“Release of the land” means that throughout the year residents of the Land of Israel are required to completely desist from cultivating their fields. They also relinquish personal ownership of their fields and whatever produce grown is been considered communal property, free for anyone to take. 

For those living in Israel this has had far reaching ramifications in their daily lives but for us in the Diaspora these effects have been confined to restrictions on the consumption of produce imported from Israel. It is important to note that due to the technicalities of food production and export schedules, much Israeli produce will remain subject to these restrictions well into next year.

“Release of money” is of much greater significance for many of us particularly those involved in business. This is because “release of money” means that from the onset of Rosh Hashana all outstanding debts between Jewish debtors and creditors are automatically cancelled. At the same time, the Torah forbids us to refrain from lending money for fear of Shemitta cancelling the loan, and commands us to lend happily, despite the possibility that we may not be paid back.

For obvious reasons the observance of this mitzvah however proved challenging and in the first century BCE, Hillel the Elder saw that people were avoiding giving loans as the Shemitta year neared. This posed two problems: Potential lenders were transgressing the Torah prohibition against withholding loans out of fear of Shemitta and those who desperately needed loans had no way to procure them. He therefore designed a halachic solution to this problem.

He noted that the Torah tells us that only private debts are cancelled by Shemitta. If, however, one owes the court money, Shemitta does not affect the loan. Based on this rule, he instituted the pruzbul: a mechanism by which debts are transferred to a beit din (religious court). By making a pruzbul, you make your private debts public—and therefore redeemable. 

As the problems identified by Hillel 2000 years ago have only increased as we have become a credit based society the practice of Pruzbul is all the more practical and important nowadays. Anyone who wants to be able to claim debts owed to them after Rosh Hashana this this year must make a Pruzbul before Rosh Hashana.

For this reason the Manchester Beth Din have made available to the community a Pruzbul Authorisation Form that we have included in this mail out. Please complete this form and return it to the Beth Din at the address on the form by Sunday 6th September 2015. The Beth Din will then convene a special sitting on Thursday 10th September at which point the Pruzbul will come into effect. This very important and rare mitzvah and should be treated with great seriousness. If you have any questions regarding this procedure please contact me to discuss it.

May the fulfilment of this great mitzvah usher in the era when no person will need to lend another as all will have their needs met with ease with the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days.

May you and yours be written and sealed in the Book of Life and may you be blessed with a good and sweet coming year.

With blessings for a Kesiva VeChasima Tova,

Good Yom Tov and see you in Shul,

Rabbi Daniel & Esther

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