Is there no one to learn that the Talmud intends not that the shliach beit din may leave one's wife and children without bed or blanket, but that just like the Devarim she'Osin ba'Hen Ochel Nefesh, one's household members must be left under indemnity?
H. David Levine, Roanoke, VA; USA
1) The Gemara is describing an extreme scenario where there is simply no possibility of paying up both the creditor and also providing the needs of his own family. If this sad state of affairs is reached, we say that the person who is waiting for his loan back comes first.
2) The Perishah (on the Tur, Choshen Mishpat 97:41) explains that while a husband is obligated to support his wife and children, this means that "Ishto k'Gufo"; a husband should honor his wife in the same way that he respects himself. A husband should give his wife food and clothing which are just as good as his own. However, a husband is not obligated to starve himself in order to support his wife. In the extreme circumstances described by our Gemara, this is in fact what would happen if both the creditor and the family were paid up by the husband.
Today we find, on Basra 9a, Amar Rav Papa Poria u'Bei Sadia. Isn't this a stiera? That the household members are women or children could make no difference.
In the scenario in Bava Metzia 113b, too, the Tzedakah fund would give the wife and children beds and pillows. What the Gemara in Bava Metzia is saying is that the creditor is not obligated to forego the money owed to him in order to ensure that the family has a bed, etc., but the community would certainly try to make sure that they provide these items from the public resources.
I understand: the tzedaka isn't his responsibility alone. Thanks, rebbe.