The Mishna (2a) taught that a person who did damage will be obligated to pay restitution with meitav – from the best land.
There were three different types of land of different qualities that were recognized in the time of the Mishna, and different monetary obligations had to be paid with different quality land:
- Nizakin – debts that stem from damage done to someone will be paid in iddit – the best land
- Ba’al hov – debts whose source is borrowing will be paid in beinonit – middling quality land
- Ketubat isha – payment of the ketuba are paid in ziburit – the lowest quality land.
According to the Gemara’s conclusion, the actual value of the land in each of the above cases will be the same, nevertheless iddit – the best land – is preferred by all, even though the size of the land will be larger if payment was made in ziburit. The preference for iddit stems from the fact that its quality will make it easier to tend and its harvest will be larger even though the cost and effort put into the land is smaller. This reality leads to the fact that there will be more potential buyers and it will be easier to sell, even though the ziburit has the same value.
These distinctions are only made with regard to the quality of land. If payment is to be made with movable objects then we consider them meitav – the best – no matter what they are, so long as they are truly worth the amount of the debt. This is true even though the ideal is to pay with money, particularly in the case of a loan where the basic obligation is to return the money that was borrowed.