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Picture the following scenario: Reuben needs to borrow money, and Shimon is happy to lend it to him. Unfortunately, Shimon won't lend Reuben the sum that he is after without something in the way of collateral, and Reuben owns absolutely nothing. Not to worry: Shimon strikes upon a brilliant solution. He gives to Reuben, free of charge, a brand new car. Then he lends Reuben the money, using the car as collateral.

Absurd, yes? So explain to me how this is any different to the procedure of the prozbul, which we learn about in the Mishna, Shevi'it 10:6.

אין כותבין פרוזבול אלא על הקרקע. אם אין לו, מזכה הוא בתוך שדהו כל שהוא

We do not write a prozbul unless it be on land. If he [the borrower] has none, he [the lender] grants him some from his own field, of any size.

Here, the implication appears to be that without some form of land as collateral, the bet din won't take responsibility for the loan. But, as with the example that I gave above, in the event that the debtor defaults on the loan, the compensation is now coming from property that was previously owned by the lender!

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See Gittin 37a where the Gemara states that in order to write a prusbul the borrower does not need to own land of equal value to the loan, but even a miniscule amount of land is sufficient. Therefore, it is certainly worthwhile for the lender to give him a miniscule piece of land, which is worth much less than the debt, to enable him to write a prusbul and not loose out the entire debt by the laws of shmitta. As to why land is required at all see the following two explanations:

רש"י מסכת גיטין דף לז עמוד א

אלא על הקרקע - אם יש קרקע ללוה דלא תקנו אלא בזמן שהחוב כשאר רוב שטרות שהן נגבין מן הקרקע דהוי מלתא דשכיחא כדאמרינן בכמה דוכתי דבמילתא דלא שכיחא לא עבוד רבנן תקנתא ואף על פי שאינו שוה כל החוב כדקתני לקמיה קרקע כל שהוא האמרן אפילו מלא מחט גובה מלא קרדום כמעשה דקטינא דאביי (כתובות דף לא:).

ר"ש מסכת שביעית פרק י משנה ו

אא"כ יש לו קרקע ללוה דאז חשוב החוב כגבוי ביד ב"ד ולא קרינא ליה לא יגוש וכמלוה שיש עליה משכון והאי דעדיפא קרקע ממטלטלין [לאו] משום דכלין דהרי עציץ נקוב המונח על גבי יתדות דיכול לכלותו ואמר בהשולח (דף לז א) דכותבין עליו פרוזבול אלא כך הוא דין דקרקע חשיבא כגבוי טפי:

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Thanks very much for the references! But isn't the implication still that this miniscule amount of land, over time, might yield fruits that can compensate for a debt on which the debtor has defaulted? Do you understand Rashi's stipulation (אפילו מלא מחט) literally? The Rash's reference to this land as collateral would seem to suppose that it is larger than a מחט... –  Shimon bM Aug 16 '13 at 2:32
    
I understand the issue of land as a technical theoretical limitation for doing a pruzbul, and thus the solution is a technical legal one, but this land is clearly not going to serve as collateral for the loan in the practical sense. We have other examples in Halacha where small amounts of land serve in such a technical legal fashion, such as when a certain kinyan is required which can only be done through land (kinyan agav). –  Ofer Livnat Aug 16 '13 at 8:20
    
Thank you. Reading through it again, I think you're right. –  Shimon bM Aug 17 '13 at 7:44
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