Greed, Pandering to the Rich and Dissembling
To approach the terrible truth about the institution of Prozbul we must have a very strong attachment to HaShem, love for Torah, commitment to truth and love for both the Jewish People and Humanity. We must be very brave because from the time of Prozbul everything we think of as Torah was changed and we must be courageous to admit that we have been deceived and our trust in our teachers has been manipulated.
From the time that Prozbul was instituted, our very approach to Torah was distorted in order to make us think that Prozbul was not only permissible, but the act of an unquestionably loving Sage who was utterly devoted to Torah and the welfare of the Jewish People.
Prozbul is a classic, and the most tragic, case of:
When a man commits a transgression and repeats it, it becomes to him something which is permissible. – Sotah 22
But it is on the scale of our entire People over a period of over 2000 years and not only does it seem permissible to us – most Orthodox Jews think it’s a mitzvah and will defend Prozbul vigorously against anyone who dares to tell the truth and say it’s a fiction and not in keeping with Torah.
In order to accept the legal fiction that is Prozbul, we were taught to interpret Torah in a mind-bending manner which would impact negatively not only on the socio-economic reality we would inhabit from that time forward, but also devastate our ability to interpret Torah with a clear mind and honest and straightforward heart.
Our emotions were manipulated and played upon cruelly in order for us to accept Prozbul. Our reverence and trust in loving-kindness and our belief in the humility of the Sages was used against us to get us to agree to endemic and institutionalized povertization – and to believe that bending us under the yoke of an edict of the rich was loving-kindness itself, not to mention upholding the honor of Torah.
Our connection to HaShem, our ability to see Torah clearly and with an uncomplicated heart was stolen from us as we were instructed to interpret Torah with duplicity dissembling as devotion to Torah.
Let us review some of what we were taught about Prozbul in order to understand the sophistication of the manipulation. In so doing, we may undo the damage done to our minds and hearts and be able to return to HaShem in truth and justice.
Examples of the twisted reasoning applied by the Rabbis can be found in the following articles (inter alia).
The Prophet Yirmiyahu said in HaShem’s Name:
14 ‘At the end of seven years ye shall let go every man his brother that is a Hebrew, that hath been sold unto thee, and hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee’; but your fathers hearkened not unto Me, neither inclined their ear.
15 And ye were now turned, and had done that which is right in Mine eyes, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before Me in the house whereon My name is called;
17 Therefore thus saith the LORD: Ye have not hearkened unto Me, to proclaim liberty, every man to his brother, and every man to his neighbour; behold, I proclaim for you a liberty, saith the LORD, unto the sword, unto the pestilence, and unto the famine; and I will make you a horror unto all the kingdoms of the earth.
20 I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life; and their dead bodies shall be for food unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth.
And so it was – and so it remains.
Is it not eminently clear when HaShem says:
9 Beware that there be not a base thought in thy heart, saying: ‘The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand’; and thine eye be evil against thy needy brother, and thou give him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin in thee.
10 Thou shalt surely give him, and thy heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him; because that for this thing the LORD thy God will bless thee in all thy work, and in all that thou puttest thy hand unto. – Devarim 15
He means that the lender will *both* lend the money *and* nullify the loan even though it is clear that the loan will most probably not be paid back? Does anyone doubt that HaShem will repay the “loss” many times over? If anyone does entertain a doubt, then that person is not a Torah-true Jew and has no business calling himself a Rabbi and teaching Torah.
Instead of compelling the rich to do as they are commanded by HaShem, or compelling them to create a more just economic system in which loans are not needed because there is not poverty, Hillel used his authority to cower the poor and defenseless. Subsequent Rabbis, who found the system of perpetual debt slavery to their liking, then went on to bend our minds as well teaching us that Hillel did this in order to prevent the rich from going against a mitzvah d’Orieita. Oh, please! Is any Jew really so stupid as to believe that?!
Twice we were sent into the Diaspora to become prey to the gentiles because we did not keep Shmitta, including the nullification of loans and the setting of the slaves and debt slaves free, and allowed the rich to prey on the poor. Because the Rabbis enslaved the poor, *and* because the poor accepted and promulgated the legal travesty “Prozbul” (meaning the edit of the rich), open hunting season was declared on all of us:
Therefore thus saith the LORD: Ye have not hearkened unto Me, to proclaim liberty, every man to his brother, and every man to his neighbour; behold, I proclaim for you a liberty, saith the LORD, unto the sword, unto the pestilence, and unto the famine; and I will make you a horror unto all the kingdoms of the earth.
Soon after Prozbul was instituted the second and, by far, more horrific, Diaspora began. Rich Jews did not proclaim liberty for the poor and the poor among us did not demand liberty for themselves, in HaShem’s Name, so the gentiles to put at liberty to do to us whatever perversion and horror came into their minds. And oh, what horrors came to their minds – because all that the gentiles are: all they think and say and do is determined by the quality of our Talmud Torah. But we were learning and teaching a perverted version of Torah – so the gentiles that we were forming with the breath of our nostrils as we used the Divine Breath within us to lie about Torah were horrific indeed.
Did the Rabbis learn? Did they have mercy upon us? No! Their cruel and twisted reasoning was: ‘Well, since we’re in the Diaspora anyway Shmitta is “only Rabbinic Shmitta”. We can’t let the land lie fallow, so let’s not nullify loans and set the debt slaves free either!’
And knowing full well that this was going to perpetuate the Diaspora they decided: We don’t have to keep the Shmitta until a majority of the Jews are living in Israel – knowing that they themselves were preventing that from happening. If the Rabbis had nullified Prozbul at any time during our Diaspora, the Diaspora would have ended on that very day!
The natural and naive, as well as commanded, Jewish love, and awe and veneration for Sages was disingenuously and unscrupulously used against us to accept putatively inextricable debt slavery. We are commanded to love and honor our Sages because they keep and defend the Torah – but not if and when they go against it. The commandment to love and honor Sages is not to be construed that a person who is considered a Sage cannot err or it is not possible that he a dissembler. We must examine the words and deeds of our Sages and be vigilant that they do not abuse their authority. A Sage who goes against Torah is to be considered as vile as a false prophet.
While selling us to the devil, the Rabbis ensured our loyalty to the slavery-in-perpetuity they inflicted upon us by pronouncing all sorts of pronouncements about the greatness, indeed infallibility, of the Rabbis and how the wrath of Heaven would be rained down upon us if we were to contradict the edicts of these “Sages”.
Infallibility is not a Jewish concept. We are taught that even Moshe Rabbeinu erred, that he was human and was subject to thus subject to errors in judgment and even emotional outbursts. That we are taught that any Rabbi’s decision, no matter how great a personage he was, was unquestionable is heresy – worse, such a lies derives from Christianity.
It is nothing less than perversion that the Rabbis emphasize the resting of the land during Shmitta, while ignoring the need for rest of the People of the land. Is it conceivable that HaShem will have mercy on dirt and dust and not on his People?
The Rabbis conditioned us for slavery from early childhood. As children we learn of the greatness of Hillel’s devotion to Torah, his humility, his own extreme poverty as a young student, how the Beit Midrash stopped taking money for lessons (why did they ever start?!) after Hillel almost froze to death because he could not afford to pay to enter the Beit Midrash, and most of all about his greatest teaching: That which is hateful to you do not do to another.
So, years later, when we learn about Prozbul, we assume that the institution of Prozbul by Hillel the Great must be in the framework of all of his other great deeds of humility and devotion and loving-kindness. It’s NOT! If it is hateful to you to be in debt, don’t do it to anyone else!
If no less a Prophet than Moshe Rabbeinu himself had moments of error and emotional turbulence, how do we dare presume that Hillel did not? The reality is that Hillel had Herod’s centurions breathing down his neck in the Sanhedrin. Herod’s agents were installed as members of Hillel’s Sanhedrin. Face facts. Hillel broke under the pressure.
As we all know, and as we have heard so very many times: “After the time of Hillel the Elder (late 1st century BC and early 1st century AD), the Nasi was almost invariably a descendant of Hillel.”
Does this not strike you as strange? Ask yourself: why was there no Beit Yirmiyahu or no Beit Eliyahu or not even a Beit Elisha? Loyalty to the ruling regime has its rewards and those dubious rewards were (and are) not offered, nor were (or are) they unwanted, by those who really serve HaShem.
The inescapable conclusion on the part of all clear-minded and honest-hearted, Torah-loyal and God-fearing and loving Jews must be that despite the fact that Prozbul was instituted by Hillel, whose humility and loving-kindness are legendary, Prozbul is an outrageous abuse of Yisrael and the Torah of Yisrael, which has brought unspeakable suffering upon the Jewish People and has been the basis for world-wide economic injustice and distortion. Neither legend nor false appeals to authority, nor all the legal legerdemain on the part of subsequent Rabbis to justify and perpetuate Prozbul, which flies in the face of HaShem’s Torah, nor the fact that our fathers and mothers accepted the legal fiction of Prozbul for so many (miserable, unlivable, danger and humiliation-filled) generations can justify the agony and misery of perpetual debt slavery that Prozbul has brought upon us and the rest of Humanity.
PROZBUL MUST BE ABOLISHED AT ONCE!
Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel