Story LineSend the Money With SomeoneRabbi Meir Orlean
“Can you lend me $100 till the end of the week?” Ariel asked his roommate, Moshe.
“Sure,” said Moshe, “but I’ll need the money back on Friday.” He gave Ariel $100.
On Wednesday afternoon Moshe wasn’t feeling well and decided to go home for the remainder of the week. He sent a message to Ariel: “I had to go home. Please send the money with someone coming to my area for Shabbos.”
Ariel asked around and found Chaim, who lived down the block from Moshe. “Please return this $100 to Moshe,” Ariel said. “He needs it back on Friday.
On the way home, Chaim and two other friends were mugged and their wallets were stolen. Chaim alerted Ariel that he was mugged.
“I sent the money with Chaim, but he was mugged,” Ariel told Moshe. “Baruch Hashem, Chaim is OK, but his wallet was stolen. Two other friends can attest to that.”
“I’m glad that Chaim is OK,” said Moshe. “However, you still need to pay me the $100.”
“It’s not my fault that Chaim was mugged,” replied Ariel. “I wasn’t negligent in any way.”
“It’s not an issue of fault,” explained Moshe. “Bottom line is, you never returned the money to me; you remain liable.”
“But I followed your instructions,” objected Ariel. “You told me to send it with someone returning to your area.”
“That may be, but it’s still your responsibility,” replied Moshe. “Chaim was your agent — I never appointed him.”
“When you told me to send the $100 with someone from your area, Chaim became your agent,” argued Ariel.
“How can he be my agent?” retorted Moshe. “I never spoke with him; you chose him!”
“Nonetheless, I chose Chaim upon your instruction,” insisted Ariel. “You allowed me to choose your agent.”
“Who ever heard of such a thing?” said Moshe.
“I see that we’re not getting anywhere,” said Ariel. “We should ask someone.”
“How about Rabbi Dayan?” said Moshe.
“OK, let’s go!” said Ariel.
The two approached Rabbi Dayan. “Moshe sent me a message to send the money I owed him with someone,” said Ariel. “I sent it with a friend, Chaim, but he was mugged. Am I still liable?”
“A borrower is liable, even for circumstances beyond his control, until the money is returned to the lender or his agent,” replied Rabbi Dayan (C.M. 120:1).
“Nonetheless, if the lender instructed the borrower to return the money via someone else, that person becomes the lender’s agent, and the borrower is no longer liable,” continued Rabbi Dayan. “The agent does not have to be appointed directly or before witnesses” (C.M. 121:1; 182:1).
“Does the lender have to speak with the agent or with the borrower?” asked Moshe.
“Even if the lender sent a letter instructing the borrower to send the money with so-and-so, that person becomes the lender’s agent and the borrower is exempt,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “The same is true whether he sent a message by email or text message” (Sma 121:5).
“Does the lender have to specify the agent?” asked Ariel. “What if he instructed the borrower to send the money with whomever he wants, as in our case?”
“That person is considered the agent of the lender, since the borrower followed his instructions, and the borrower is no longer liable,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “That is, of course, provided that the borrower sent the money with a reliable person and in a normal manner. However, if the borrower sent it with someone suspect, a minor or non-Jew, or through a dangerous area, he is considered negligent and remains liable. The lender presumably did not allow this, unless he instructed so explicitly” (Shach 121:6).
“Chaim was not mugged in a dangerous area,” acknowledged Moshe. “Muggings are rare where I live.”
“In conclusion,” ruled Rabbi Dayan, “since Moshe instructed Ariel to send the money with someone and it was sent with someone reliable, Ariel is no longer liable.”
From the BHI HotlineWhen a Loss Is a Gain
Q: I recently lost a din Torah, but I am certain that I was in the right. I don’t suspect the Dayanim of deliberately skewing the outcome. But how is it possible that I shouldn’t rightfully receive what belongs to me — especially because the passuk states, “Elokim nitzav b’adas Kel,” that Hashem Himself is present during a din Torah, and Divine providence guides the Dayanim to rule correctly?
A: Many people who lose a din Torah express the same feeling you describe here, and we would like to address the broader context of how a person should react to a disappointing result in beis din.
The Zohar (Mishpatim 94b) states that if a person loses a din Torah that he feels he should have won, it means that in a previous gilgul (iteration of his soul), he owed his adversary money, and that’s why he has been required to pay now even if it seems unjust (as explained by Degel Machaneh Efraim and Baal Shem Tov, Parashas Mishpatim; Chazon Ish quoted in Pe’er Hador v. 3, p.98-99).
On the other hand, Chazal (Yoma 38b) teach that a person cannot take something that belongs to another person. Furthermore, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 8a) teaches that when a beis din wronged a party, Hashem will recompense that person from some other source.
Ultimately, then, a person should accept the ruling of beis din as the best outcome for him, secure in the knowledge that it’s either an opportunity to correct a wrong his neshamah previously committed, and if not, then the money will be returned to him.
Nevertheless, some people walk out of beis din convinced that had they gone to civil court, they would have won the case, and they launch a campaign against the Dayanim, claiming that they ruled against them unjustly. But a layman is unlikely to reach the correct conclusion on his own. The Rishonim (Mahari Weill 146, cited in Sma 3:13) write that the logic of a layman does not meld with the logic of the Torah, to the extent that Rabbanim should not sit on a beis din panel with laymen.
The Chazon Ish (Emunah Uvitachon 3:16) writes that one of the reasons it is so difficult to accept a ruling in monetary matters is that the actual ruling generally does not follow first impressions and cannot be determined through a superficial examination of the case but requires intense and diligent work on the part of the Dayan. Even sifrei halachah don’t necessarily reveal that truth to just anyone; only a Dayan who invests exhaustive efforts in understanding monetary law will find the absolute, undeniable truth (see also Chofetz Chaim, Hilchos Lashon Hara 6:8).
Before bringing a din Torah to beis din, each litigant should know and accept these concepts, so that he will accept the verdict as Hashem’s will regardless of whether he likes it.
Moreover, when a person is upset about a matter in which he has a personal stake, he should remember Chazal’s teaching (Shabbos 119a) that a person does not see his own faults. It is related that Rav Yehoshua Falk, author of the Sma, lost a din Torah and was required to pay 22,000 gold coins to his adversary. In the aftermath of the din Torah, the beis din showed him that they had ruled in accordance with his own published opinion in the Sma. Rav Falk was stunned, and remarked that he now saw the full extent of Chazal’s statement that a person cannot see his own faults (Nechmad V’na’im [Kosov], Parashas Yisro; Ksav Sofer, Y.D. 109, in the name of his father, the Chasam Sofer).
Generally speaking, then, the losing litigant should be humble enough to realize that beis din likely did rule correctly, and that it is to his advantage to have lost the case and forfeited undeserved money in This World, rather than have to face that debit in the Next World. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 7b) states that if beis din repossessed a person’s property to pay someone else, he should accept that judgment with joy, realizing that since the ruling was just, they saved him from theft.
Money mattersMechilah (Forgoing) and Calibration Tolerances#452
Q: Does it suffice that measures are within calibration tolerances established by the government, even if not totally accurate?
A: Tosefta (B.B. 5:4) teaches that one should not say when measuring, “Forgo me this small amount,” since the accuracy of measures is not dependent on people — Hashem’s Name is on them.
Some explain that it is prohibited to measure inaccurately even if the customer forgoes, since this could lead to cheating others who might think that local commercial practice is to measure with an incomplete measure (Rashbam, B.B. 89a; Sma 231:14).
Some add that although the Torah demands “full and just” measures, the accuracy is determined by the consent of the community, varying with time and place (Maharam Shick C.M. #30).
Based on this, if the commercial practice allows variances within established calibration tolerances, mechilah is allowed. Similarly, on Yom Tov — when the Sages prohibited measuring accurately — it is permissible to measure roughly, since it is known that on Yom Tov the measuring is not accurate (C.M. 231:8; Mishnah Berurah 323:6).