Hilchos Choshen Mishpat
Volume I : Number 18
A Borrowers Obligation To Repay
Reuven borrows money from Shimon for six months. At the end of the six
months, Shimon does not come to Reuven to collect the money. Is Reuven
obligated to approach Shimon to repay the loan, or is he permitted to
wait until Shimon approaches him?
- A. If the borrower knows that the creditor expects to get the money back
and has no intention at all of letting him keep the money as a present,
nor does he have any intention of extending the time of the loan, the
borrower is Halachically obligated to approach the creditor and
voluntarily repay the loan, even though the creditor has not yet
requested payment. If the borrower is not sure whether or not the
creditor will forgive the loan and allow him to keep it, he is not
obligated to approach the creditor to repay, and may wait until the
creditor approaches him. However, even if he is not sure what the
creditor's intention was, but knows that the creditor has since
forgotten about the loan, he is obligated to at least approach the
creditor to remind him about the loan.
- The creditor is permitted to demand payment of the loan, even many
years after it was due, and we do not say that since there was no claim
during those years, he must have forgiven the loan. However, in order to
ensure that no trickery is involved, the Dayan (Rabbinic Judge) that is
judging such a case should try to clarify why the creditor did not claim
his loan earlier.
- If a creditor states that he forgives a loan, even if this statement
was made to himself, and nobody heard it, the loan is forgiven and the
borrower does not have to pay. However, if the creditor says that he
gives up hope of ever being repaid by the borrower, this is not
considered forgiving the loan and the borrower is still Halachically
obligated to pay.
This is only true if the borrower's situation has not changed at all
between the time of the loan and now. But if the borrowers situation has
taken a downturn, [For example, the borrower has suffered unforseen
financial losses that are now causing people to give up hope of ever
having their debts repaid.] and the creditor says that he does not believe
that he will ever be repaid, this is considered forgiveness of the loan
and the borrower is no longer obligated to pay.
The Shiltei Giborim at the end of Bava Kamma writes the following; "If
someone lends someone money and does not request repayment - the borrower
is not obligated to voluntarily repay the loan. Since the creditor does
not claim the loan, we can be assume that he intends that the money be a
present." The Shach (Choshen Mishpat 232:2) quotes this Shiltei Giborim
and writes that he does not understand it. The Nesivos Mishpat (ibid. 3)
similarly finds this statement puzzling. The Kitzos HaChoshen (190:2)
seems to concur with the Shilteie Giborim. However, the Nesivos Mishpat
there (190:1) states unequivocally that the Torah places a clear
obligation on a borrower to repay his debts even without being asked by
It seems clear that even the Shiltei Giborim is of opinion that there is
an obligation to repay a loan even before being asked. The point that the
Shiltei Giborim is bringing to light is that there are times when the
fact that the creditor has not requested the loan is in an indication
that he is not interested in repayment, and in those situations, the
borrower would not be required to approach the creditor to offer the
money, as long as the creditor does not request it. However, if the
borrower knows that the creditor was expecting repayment - but has since
forgotten about the loan, or for technical reasons has been unable to
approach the borrower to request repayment - even according to the
Shiltei Giborim the borrower has an obligation to voluntarily repay the
debt, and may not wait until it is requested.
Therefore, someone who borrows money from a Gemach (Free Loan Fund) whose
funds are designated for loans and not grants, or from a private
individual, in a situation where it is clear to the borrower that the
creditor is expecting payment - the borrower must repay immediately when
the loan is due, and may not wait until the creditor approaches him. Even
if the borrower is unsure as to what the intent of the creditor is, and
thinks that there is a possibility that he has forgotten about the loan,
he must approach the creditor and remind him about it. The borrower
should judge from the creditor's response, whether or not he expects to
Regarding Answer B and C, these Halachos are clearly discussed in the
Shulchan Oruch, Choshen Mishpat 97:3, 98:1-2, and in the Rema there (2).
See also the Kitzos HaChoshen 163:1, and the Rema there, and the Chazon
Ish in Bava Kamma 10:14.
This week's class is based on a column by Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz, who is an
Av Bet Din and Rosh Kollel in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem. His
column originally appears in Hebrew in Toda'ah, a weekly publication in
Jerusalem. It has been translated and reprinted here with his
permission and approval.
This class is translated and moderated by Rabbi Aaron Tendler of Yeshivas
Ner Yisroel in Baltimore. Rabbi Tendler accepts full responsibility for
the accuracy of the translation and will be happy to fax originals of the
articles in Hebrew to anyone interested.
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Please Note: The purpose of this column is to make people aware of Choshen Mishpat
situations that can arise at any time, and the Halachic concepts that may be used to resolve them. Each
individual situation must be resolved by an objective, competent Bais Din (or Rabbinic Arbitrator) in the
presence of all parties involved!
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