Sep 11, 2008
Just in time for Rosh Hashana and the end of the current Sabbatical year, the Rabbinical Council of America is pleased to inform the Jewish community of the availability of a duly formulated copy of the Prozbul
, in both English and Hebrew.
In less than 3 weeks (i.e., the start of Rosh Hashanah) any debts owed by one Jew to another will be cancelled in accordance with Jewish law. For this is a Sabbatical (or Shmittah) year, and Jewish law declares that just as the land of Israel should lie uncultivated during this year unless special arrangements will have been made, so too outstanding debts will be cancelled at the end of the year absent proper preparation by the creditor involved.
The proper preparation, in this instance, is accomplished by a Jew who has loaned money to a fellow Jew by executing a properly witnessed copy of the famous enactment of Hillel the Elder, known as the Prozbul, promulgated about 100 years before the destruction of the Second Temple.
The rationale behind the historic takkanah
(or decree) should be very familiar to us, faced as we are with the current credit crisis that has confounded contemporary financial markets. In the run up to the Sabbatical year of that time, Hillel saw that credit was drying up because potential creditors saw little means of collecting on their loans after the Sabbatical year had come and gone. The result would be a catastrophe for the poor, if not a meltdown of the entire economy. So Hillel found a legitimate way (actually it was implicit in the Torah's own formulation of the Sabbatical laws, but he made the provision explicit) to have the rabbinic courts of his day act as guarantors of outstanding loans (or more precisely to take over the loans, so as to collect them on behalf of the creditors when they came due.)
Rabbi Basil Herring, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America stated that "the laws of Prozbul are instructive in so many ways, as they demonstrate the Jewish tradition's sensitivity to the poor, its understanding of economic realities, its practical problem-solving approach to life, its flexibility, its creative interpretation of ancient texts, and not least an adherence to both the letter and the spirit of the Torah. The RCA is pleased to assist the Jewish public in fulfilling this beautiful mitzvah."
The Rabbinical Council of America, in partnership with the Beth Din of America, is pleased to provide this service to the Jewish community, so that visitors to its website can download, print, and fill out the form, easily and directly, thereby facilitating the fulfillment of this important and socially responsible provision of Torah and Jewish law.