One of Hillel’s major contributions to the Law, the customs, and the lifestyle of Judea was the ordinance of the Prozbul. The economy of Judea was based on agriculture. During hard times, such as during the many droughts that occurred in this area, the poor had always relied on loans from the rich. High interest rates and loss of land to the wealthier citizens created intolerable inequality, both economic and social. The Torah, attempting to prevent the total deterioration of society, had cancelled all debts by the final year of the seven-year Sabbatical cycle.
Hillel cancelled this compassionate law on his own authority. How can that be? Hillel, the soul of charity, the one who constantly helped the poor, cancelled the law that would save them from starvation, or from permanently losing their land? This sounds inconceivable; could he have possibly turned on his people in order to pacify the rich? In addition, how could he bring himself to object to a Mosaic Law, stated in the Torah – literally annul a sacred command? This could not be
done lightly – there had to be a very good reason for such behavior. Besides, the Prozbul is included in the collection of ordinances of Mipnei Tikkun haOlam, which mean, “for the welfare of the world/community.” So it could not be meant to benefit only the rich, who did not particularly require welfare.