Pruzbul: What? How? Who? When?
The annulment of all debts in the shemitah year applies also nowadays, rabbinically, both in Eretz Yisrael and in chutz la’aretz. When our Sages saw that people were not lending money when Shemitah approached, thereby transgressing the prohibition of, “Beware, lest there be in your heart an unfaithful thought, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of release has approached,’ and you will begrudge your needy brother and not give him . . and it will be a sin to you”, they enacted the pruzbul. In this ceremony, the lender transfers their debts to a Beis Din, by declaring to them before Shemitah, “I hereby transmit my debts to you, so I may collect them whenever I want.” When he says this, it is considered as if he handed over his documents to the Beis Din and asked the Beis Din to collect the debts for him. Therefore his debts do not become annulled with the onset of Shemitah by law.
How is the pruzbul performed? This is done by gathering three men, who serve as a Beis Din, and telling them,
“I hereby transmit my debts to you, so I may collect them whenever I want.”
הֲרֵינִי מוֹסֵר לָכֶם כָּל חוֹבוֹת שֶׁיֵּשׁ לִי שֶׁאֶגְבֶּה אוֹתָם כָל זְמַן שֶׁאֶרְצֶה
Every G-d-fearing person should be stringent to make a pruzbul, since it involves no expenditure, and is easy to do. The Rebbe adds that nowadays this is applicable to all individuals. Furthermore, from the Alter Rebbe’s words, we can infer that this is the correct mode of conduct.
The pruzbul can function only if the borrower has some real estate, even if it’s a tiny parcel of land, even if the real estate is his only temporarily, and even if it’s only rented or lent to him.
The annulment of debts applies to women as well [who have their own money]. Some are of the opinion that it also applies to children who have a personal bank account.
The Alter Rebbe rules that the correct time for making the pruzbul is at the end of the sixth year, before Rosh Hashanah of Shemitah. Someone who failed to do so can make up for it until the end of the Shemitah year. It is a mitzvah to publicize this matter. The Rebbe instructed (in a note dated 23 Av 5747, to someone who compiled a book on Shemitah money matters) that the possibility of a default pruzbul made at the conclusion of Shemitah should also be broadcast widely.
In order not to forget this important edict, the best time to do the pruzbul is right after Hataras Nedarim, because at that time there are three men present who serve as a Beis Din, and you could then say the phrase for the pruzbul.
If you forgot to make a pruzbul by Hataras Nedarim, it can be done later in the day, up until shkiyah.
Husbands may make a pruzbul on behalf of their wives and fathers on behalf of their daughters, but they should inform them of the fact that a pruzbul was made on their behalf.
The pruzbul document:
If a woman can’t gather three men, nor does she have the ability to make someone else a shaliach for her, a pruzbul document may be written and handed to the Beis Din. The pruzbul form is available from the Badatz (Hebrew & English) and should be filled out and submitted to the Beis Din before Rosh Hashanah. The forms can be placed in the mailbox at the door of the Badatz office: 390a Kingston Ave. (between Crown & Montgomery St.), or faxed to: 718-771-6000. They may also be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rebbe writes that even those who are sure that they have no collectable debts, and thus have no need for a pruzbul, should nonetheless attempt to fulfill this edict. This can be achieved through lending a small sum of money to someone else in order to be able to observe the rabbinical institution of Pruzbul. Writing a Pruzbul is a means to express our affinity to rabbinic rulings. In this case, we use this opportunity as well to express our affinity of following the ruling of the Alter Rebbe to make a Pruzbul at the end of the sixth year of Shemitah.
For the spiritual significance of debt annulment and the connection with Rosh Hashanah, see the sichah of 24 Elul 5725.
On Erev Rosh Hashanah 5726 after Hataras Nedorim and the recital of the pruzbul formula, the Rebbe said, “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year,” and then added with a smile, “because we already made a pruzbul here below, there will not be a pruzbul above.”
Law of Redemption:
The source for the annulment of monetary debts during Shemitah throughout golus is by Rabbinic law, so the Sages were able to override its effect with the enactment of pruzbul. However, in the time of the Beis Hamikdash (and therefore in the era of Redemption) we will once again have Shemitah (of all types, including for capital) by Torah decree, and the pruzbul enactment will be nullified. It is disputed among poskim whether a pruzbul instituted on monies lent while still in golus will continue to be effective in the era of Redemption.
The following letter of the Rebbe is published in Likkutei Sichos (vol. 12, p. 256). It is dated Tishrei 4, 5719, and comes in response to the query: When following the Alter Rebbe’s
opinion (Shulchan Aruch, Hilchos Halva’ah, 36) and arranging a pruzbul on erev Rosh Hashanah going into a Shemitah year, what is the status of loans subsequently
extended during the year of Shemitah?
“Loans with established times for repayment are not cancelled by Shemitah. (If the time for repayment is set for within the year, it serves as an explicit condition that prevents the loan from being annulled, as per Shulchan Aruch Admor HaZaken 35).
For loans extended without specific times of repayment and which are extended more than thirty days prior to the end of the year, one should make a pruzbul in the seventh year. There is room to debate how the Rosh and the Tur would solve the difficulty of such loans, seeing as they are of the opinion that one does not make a
pruzbul in the seventh year.”
In the introduction to Hayom Yom (section entitled Shalsheless Hayachas), the entry
for 5747 includes the following statement:
“The Rebbe encouraged that the text of the pruzbul be recited at the conclusion of the seventh year as well.”
This practice similarly appears in Lu’ach Colel Chabad.
Here are some examples of the Rebbe’s own conduct regarding pruzbul:
In 5712, after Shacharis and Hataras Nedarim, the Rebbe announced: “Since we are now at the close of the Shemitah year, we need to also recite the text of pruzbul as recorded in Shulchan Aruch Admor Hazaken – hareini mosar lachem kol hachovos sheyesh li….” The Rebbe recited the text in Yiddish, and then extended his holy blessings.
In 5719, after reading the pan klali, the Rebbe announced: “This was also a Shemitah
year. Although the Alter Rebbe states that ‘the time for pruzbul is lechatchilah at the end of the sixth year, before Rosh Hashanah of the seventh’—and no doubt, this was observed—nevertheless, new loans have been created during the seventh year. Undoubtedly, there is a kosher beis din present….” The Rebbe then read the text of
pruzbul from a copy of the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch: “Hareini mosar lachem….”
The Rebbe then concluded, “May Hashem absolve all the debts of His nation,
Yisrael, and may He grant them all their material and spiritual needs with His full,
open, holy, and broad hand! Kesivah vachasimah tovah, leshanah tovah umesukah!”
In 5747, after Hataras Nedarim, the Rebbe announced: “Since we are now concluding
a Shemitah year, in order to fulfill our obligation according to those who hold the
opinion that a pruzbul must be created at the close of the seventh year as well, we
will now do so once again.” The Rebbe then recited the text of pruzbul, delivered a
brief blessing, and went upstairs to his office.
[The Rebbe did not recite the text of pruzbul in the years 5726, 5733, and 5740.]