Increasing the Dowry – Bava Metzia 65


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The Mishna stated: If someone is renting out a courtyard and he says, “If you give me the money now, I will give it to you for ten sela a year. If you give me the money every month, it will cost you one sela a month (totaling twelve sela per year),” this is permitted.

The Rem”a rules: It is permitted to increase the dowry of one’s son-in-law. He explains the case: A father vowed to give a certain amount to his daughter as a dowry. He then stipulated with his son-in-law that for every year that he allows the dowry to stay by him (and not collect it), he will give an extra amount. This is permitted, for it is as if he is merely increasing the dowry amount. However, this is only if the condition was made before the marriage. Otherwise, it would be forbidden, because the father-in-law is rewarding the son-in-law for waiting to collect the debt.


By: Rabbi Yaakov Montrose

The Mishna here discusses two cases. In the first case, a landowner sells a field to a buyer who makes a down payment. The seller says, “Whenever you want, you may bring the money and take your field.” The Mishna states that this arrangement is forbidden. RASHI (DH Machar Lo) explains that the field retroactively becomes the buyer’s when he pays the rest of the money. Accordingly, if the seller ate the fruit of the field in the interim time, the seller effectively has taken Ribbis for letting the buyer delay payment. If, on the other hand, the buyer eats the fruit of the field during this time, there is a possibility that the buyer will be taking Ribbis: in the event that the buyer defaults on the sale and does not deliver the rest of the money by the given time, the down payment that he gave will retroactively be considered a loan to the seller, and the buyer (lender) will have eaten the fruit of the field of the seller (borrower), effectively taking Ribbis for his “loan” to the seller.

In the Mishna’s second case, a borrower gives his field as collateral to a lender, and they stipulate that if the borrower does not pay back the loan within three years, the field retroactively becomes payment for the loan. The fruit of the field is sold and the money held by a third party until the three years pass. If the borrower pays back the money on time, the profit from the fruit goes to the borrower and the field stays in his possession. If he does not pay back, the ownership of the field is considered to have been transferred to the lender three years ago, and the profit of the fruit goes to the lender.

The TOSFOS YOM TOV asks the following question. The Mishna’s point seems to be that when there is a possibility that the ownership of a field will be transferred retroactively when a certain time arrives, neither party may eat the fruit in the interim because of Ribbis. Why does the Mishna express this point in the case of a sale which is forbidden and in a case of a loan which is permitted? The point seems to be the same in both cases.

(a) The TOSFOS YOM TOV answers that the Mishna teaches its point in the first case with regard to a sale because it wants to show that even though the Halachah is often lenient in cases of sales (as Rebbi Yehudah indeed is lenient in this case because he rules that “Tzad Echad b’Ribbis” is permitted), in this case the Halachah is not lenient and such a transaction is forbidden. On the other hand, the Rabanan were generally stringent in cases of Ribbis of loans. The Mishna therefore teaches a second case to show that such a transaction is permitted even in the case of a loan.

(b) Alternatively, the Tosfos Yom Tov explains that the case of a permitted loan is necessary only because of the testimony which the Mishna quotes afterwards. The Mishna relates that Baysos used to manage his loans this way according to the Chachamim. To maintain consistency with the case of Baysos, the Mishna teaches the second case, in which the law is lenient.

The CHIDUSHEI MAHARI’ACH has difficulty with the question of the Tosfos Yom Tov. The Mishna teaches the first case involving a sale because it needs to teach the potential problem of Ribbis involved in selling a field. A deal in which the fruit is given to a third party until the ownership of the field becomes clarified is not problematic at all. The Mishna therefore needs to teach a case in which the deal is forbidden. The second case of the Mishna is also necessary: since the borrower is offering his field as security for a loan which is due only three years from now, it is possible that this type of transaction should be forbidden because presumably the borrower offers a field of greater value as collateral in order to receive a loan for three years. This means that a default on the loan will provide the lender with a field worth more than the loan — which is Ribbis. The Mishna teaches that the Halachah in the case of such a loan is lenient and such a deal is permitted.

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