Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Paying Creditors From an Estate and/or After Bankruptcy

Let's say Moe has died; baruch dayan ha'emes.  Moe had a beautiful funeral, lovingly and (of course) tearfully remembered by friends and loved ones.  In fact, there were three attendees -- Larry, Curly Joe, and Shemp -- who were weeping somewhat more than the rest of the gathered assemblage.  It is now a few days later and finances need to be settled.  As it turns out Moe had owed money to Larry, Curly Joe, and Shemp; ah, that explains why they were at the funeral.  Moe's estate is valued at $3000, Shemp is owed $10,000, Curly Joe is owed $20,000, and Larry is owed $30,000; ah, that explains the excess weeping.  How do we divide up the estate to pay the creditors?
Note: we are taking the case here where all notes have the same due date and we are not discussing the difference in whether paid in real estate or cash.
The answer is based on a mishna (K'subos 93a): A man who had three wives died.  (It doesn't discuss the cause of death, but I think it's pretty obvious.)  One wife is owed one manah (a unit of currency in talmudic times), the second wife was owed two mannah, and the third three.  The mishna says they split it evenly.
Background: as part of the Orthodox Jewish marriage, the man gives his wife a contract (known as a k'suva) that spells out his monetary, emotional, and physical obligations to his wife; it also spells out his (or his estate's) financial obligations to her in the case of divorce or death.
 That is the source for how creditors are paid from an estate.  The rub, as they say, is how to interpret "evenly".  There are two main opinions.  Rashi says evenly means what it says, each gets an equal portion of the estate.  In our example, Shemp, Curly Joe, and Larry will each get $1000.  Tosefos calls "foul!" -- that just can't be fair.  Tosefos, therefore, brings the opinion of Rabeinu Chananel who says "evenly" means "equal percentage based on the debt owed."  In our case, the total debt owed by Moe's (alav ha'shalom) estate is $60,000.  Shemp is owed 1/6 of the total debt, Curly Joe 1/3, and Larry is owed 1/2.  Therefore, Shemp will get $500, Curly Joe $1000, and Larry $1,500.

What about if Larry actually had three separate notes?  Do we split the estate according to the creditors or according to the notes?  According to Rabeinu Chananel it doesn't matter, but according to Rashi it makes a big difference. If we split according to the creditors, the split is as outlined.  If we split, though, according to the number of notes, we have five noteshere.  Therefore Shemp and Curly Joe (who each have one note) will get $600 each; Larry, though, will get $1800.  The logic of the second opinion is, "And just why do you think he made Moe, alav ha'shalom, sign three notes?  Precisely in order to be sure he got paid on each as a separate obligation, of course!"

There are a few cases where we don't pay evenly.  One such case is where one creditor is wealthy and the other is destitute, the one with no visible means of support is paid first.  That's the thing about Torah Law -- very strict, very fair.  It can be that way because it's not a consensus of opinion -- it is rather the Opinion of The One.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…

Thought for the Day: Hydroponically Grown Humans... I Feel Sick

I am quite openly not at all objective about abortion in particular and the treatment of human embryos and fetuses in general.  I am, after all, the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.  Not "thought about it, but couldn't go through with it"; not "made appointment, but then chickened out at the lost moment"; but, "tried a procedure, but was unsuccessful in attempt to abort".  Nonetheless, I try very hard to listen to the liberal arguments (which I also used to chant as part of the general liberal catechism), and am genuinely empathetic to the plight of women who find themselves in that difficult position.

What I heard on NPR this morning, however, has left me feeling physically ill.  You can read about it, if you like, but here's the bottom line:  Scientists in Cambridge have achieved a new record, they fertilized a human ova and then kept it alive in vitro (that is, in a test tube/petri dish in a laboratory) for 14 days.  The scientist involve…