By Rabbi Meir Orlian
Nosson and Gabi were counselors together in camp.
One day, while Nosson was out, a friend, Avi, stopped by to visit.
“Hi, Avi!” Gabi greeted him. “What’s doing?”
“Baruch Hashem, things are fine,” answered Avi. “How’s camp? Is Nosson around?”
“Nosson’s out for the day,” replied Gabi. “A family simcha, or something like that, so I’m watching the kids by myself.”
“I hoped that I would catch Nosson,” said Avi, disappointed. “I have to talk to him.”
“What’s the matter?” asked Gabi. “Can I help?”
“Nosson owes me $100,” said Avi. “I’d like him to pay me.”
“Nosson mentioned a week ago that he owes you,” said Gabi. “I gather he hasn’t paid yet?”
“No,” said Avi.
Gabi thought for a minute. “I’ll pay you,” he said. “I see Nosson daily; it will be easier for me to deal with him.”
Gabi took out $100 and gave it to Avi.
“Thanks a lot,” said Avi.
When Nosson returned, Gabi said to him: “Avi came by for the $100 that you owe him. I paid him for you, so you can give me the $100.”
“Who asked you to pay?” replied Nosson. “I didn’t want you to pay for me.”
“What’s the difference?” said Gabi. “You said that you owe him.”
“Yes, but I was hoping to get Avi to cancel the debt,” said Nosson. “I’m tight on money and I’ve done him some favors. What you decided to do is your issue!”
“That may be, but meanwhile you still owe him,” argued Gabi. “I laid out the $100 for you.”
Nosson was adamant that he didn’t want to reimburse Gabi. They decided to bring their dispute to Rabbi Dayan.
“Someone lent Nosson $100,” said Gabi. “I paid instead of him. Does he have to reimburse me?”
“It is morally proper for Nosson to reimburse you, but reimbursement for unsolicited payment of someone else’s loan is not simple,” said Rabbi Dayan. “The Mishnah (Kesubos 107b) teaches that if someone traveled abroad and another person—unsolicited—sustained the wife, the husband is not required to reimburse him. Most Rishonim maintain that this applies also to one who pays his fellow’s debt on his own initiative” (E.H. 70:8; C.M. 128:1).
“However, Rabbeinu Tam maintains that the Mishnah’s rule applies only to sustenance,” continued Rabbi Dayan, “since the woman could have minimized her expenses and avoided the need for sustenance. However, payment of a definite debt warrants reimbursement.”
“How do we rule?” asked Nosson.
“Although the Sma (128:3) sides with Rabbeinu Tam, the Shulchan Aruch and Rema rule like most Rishonim,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Thus, if the borrower refuses to reimburse, we cannot require him to pay.”
“Why should the husband or borrower be exempt, though?” asked Gabi. “The other person covered his expense and caused him gain!”
“There is no actual gain here, only sparing potential loss that is not definite (mavriach ari minichsei chaveiro),” replied Rabbi Dayan. “The husband can claim that the wife would have managed; the borrower can claim that he would have pleaded with the lender to cancel the debt. Alternatively, someone else might have agreed to pay the loan gratis” (Shach 128:4).
“Are there cases when we do require reimbursement?” asked Nosson.
“There is a dispute regarding a non-Jewish creditor or one who is pressuring, who is unlikely to cancel the loan,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “In addition, some write that the borrower must reimburse if he is in a reasonable financial position, so that there is no reason to assume that the lender would cancel the debt; or if the borrower indicated that he was interested in paying, such as by requesting a loan to pay the debt; or if the other person paid in the presence of the borrower” (Shach 128:3; Aruch HaShulchan 128:1; Pischei Choshen, Halvaah 5:34[90,95]).
From The BHI Hotline: Honest Witness
Or Lashon HaRa?
Q: I was in a crystal store and saw someone bump into a dish and chip it. When I alerted him to the damage, he told me to mind my own business. Am I obligated to identify the mazik (damager) to the store owner, or would that violate the prohibition of lashon ha’ra?
We received a similar question:
Q: My bike was stolen from the yeshiva yard. I noticed that a house across the street has a security camera. Are they obligated to give me access to their recording so I can see who stole my bicycle?
A: Although speaking lashon ha’ra is prohibited, there are situations where it is not only permitted but obligatory (see Business Weekly #104).
There are several reasons why in certain situations it is required to speak lashon ha’ra: (1) The obligation to testify when a friend requests you to do so; (2) the prohibition against standing idly by when your friend will suffer a loss—lo sa’amod al dam rei’echa; and (3) the obligation to return lost objects.
The obligation to give testimony. The Torah (Vayikra 5:1) obligates someone to testify in beis din when his testimony will either obligate a litigant to pay, obligate him to take an oath, or even lead to the imposition of a compromise between the two litigants (C.M. 28:1). This obligation is applicable only when one is requested by a litigant to testify in beis din (Sma 28: 6, 7). It does not apply if one was not asked to testify.
Lo sa’amod al dam rei’echa. According to many poskim, when the litigant is aware of a witness and does not ask him to testify, the witness need not volunteer to testify, because the litigant’s silence constitutes mechilah (forgiveness) of the obligation. But if the litigant is unaware of a witness, the witness must inform the litigant that he has knowledge so that if requested, he could testify (Erech Shai). This obligation of a witness to inform the litigant that he could testify is derived from the pasuk of lo sa’amod al dam rei’echa, which obligates one to take action to prevent another person from suffering a financial loss (Rambam, Sefer HaMitzvos, Prohibition 297).
Returning a lost object. The mitzvah of returning lost objects also obligates one to provide information to help someone recover money that would otherwise become lost (Rambam, ibid.; see C.M. 259:9). Therefore one must testify for a damaged party to assist him in collecting from the mazik (Mishkenos Yaakov, C.M. 12; Shaar Mishpat cited by Pischei Teshuvah, C.M. 259:4; Nesivos 1. Cf. Imrei Binah, Eidus 8).
Some assert that even if the witness is a relative or otherwise disqualified, he should come to beis din, because that could cause them to consider the matter more seriously and the other litigant may hesitate to contradict the witness, thereby assisting in producing a proper ruling (Teshuvah Me’ahavah 1:76).
Therefore you must inform the store owner about the person who damaged the merchandise. This empowers the owner to file a claim to collect from the mazik or at least force the mazik to take an oath denying liability. The mitzvos of lo sa’amod and returning lost objects obligate you to share with the owner what you saw, even though he did not ask you to testify.
Similarly, since reviewing the film may give you the information you need to recover your bike, the camera owner should provide access to the recording (C.M. 16:4—one who has a contract that contains information valuable to others must make it available to them; Shaar Mishpat explains that the obligation stems from the mitzvah of returning lost objects).
Money Matters: Time
Based on the writings of Rav Chaim Kohn, shlita
Q: A person declared that after his death, his property should not be given to his children, but to his brother. Is such a statement halachically valid?
A:. Unlike other transactions, which require an act of kinyan to effect the transaction, inheritance is automatic upon death. There is a “fine-point” dispute whether inheritance takes place at the time of death or immediately after death. Regardless, after one’s death, his property automatically belongs to the inheritors. Thus, the statement of the deceased is not valid, since the property is no longer his after death for him to dispense as he wishes (Sefer HaChinuch #400; Ketzos HaChoshen 252:1).
Moreover, the Torah declares the laws of inheritance “a statute” (Bamidbar 27:11). Thus one cannot simply negate the laws of inheritance and disinherit an inheritor or state that a non-inheritor should inherit (C.M. 281:1; Sma 281:1).
This is one of the primary problems with standard legal wills. [B’ezras Hashem, we will address the status of non-halachic wills in later articles.] v
This article is intended for learning purposes and not to be relied upon halacha l’maaseh. There are also issues of dina d’malchusa to consider in actual cases.
Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, which is headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, shlita, a noted dayan. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, please call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e‑mail email@example.com. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e‑mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.