Story LineThree-Month LoanRabbi Meir Orlian
Shlomo returned from a summer visit to Eretz Yisrael very excited. “It was fascinating,” he exclaimed to his friend Eli. “Scattered all around the country were fallow fields and orchards, with billboards reading: ‘Shemittah is observed here.’ All fruit and vegetable stores state in the kashrus certification the status of their produce.”
“It’s a pity that we barely notice Shemittah outside of Israel,” responded Eli.
“Soon we’ll have a chance,” commented Shlomo with a grin.
“What do you mean?” asked Eli.
“When the Shemittah year 5775 concludes, in another month, shemittas kesafim takes effect and outstanding loans are canceled,” explained Shlomo. “Most authorities rule that this applies also outside of Israel, even nowadays, although the practice in some places was to collect debts even after Shemittah” (C.M. 67:1; Shemittas Kesafim U’pruzbul 2:7).
“Just a minute,” said Eli. “My neighbor had a lot of expenses over the summer. Yesterday, he asked to borrow $5,000 for three months, until he can balance his account.”
“Did you lend it to him?” asked Shlomo.
“I was happy to,” replied Eli. “I just insisted that we draft a proper document, so that we don’t run into misunderstandings later. What happens when Shemittah ends? Will this loan be canceled?”
“I suppose so,” said Shlomo. “Why should it be different from any other loan?
“It doesn’t make sense, though,” argued Eli. “If the loan was granted for three months, extending past the Shemittah year, clearly the understanding was that the loan should not be canceled. Otherwise, what’s the point of the loan?”
“Is that reason enough that Shemittah should not cancel the loan?” countered Shlomo. “How does that change the Halachah?”
“So there’s no way to lend past the Shemittah year?” asked Eli.
“I don’t know,” acknowledged Shlomo. “Let’s go ask Rabbi Dayan.”
“Does Shemittah cancel a loan due only after Shemittah?” they asked.
“The Gemara (Makkos 3a-b) cites two versions of a statement of Shmuel,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “According to the first version, Shmuel maintains that Shemittah cancels the loan, since it is ultimately destined for collection. According to the second version, however, Shemittah does not cancel the loan, since there is no imminent threat of collection.”
“Whom do we rule like?” asked Shlomo.
“Most authorities follow the second version, that Shemittah does not cancel the loan,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “The Shulchan Aruch rules this way, as well. Only a loan that is already due is canceled by Shemittah. Furthermore, some write that a due datte after Shemittah is like an unstated stipulation by the borrower that he will not evade payment after Shemittah” (C.M. 67:9-10; Ketzos 67:3).
“What about a loan with no specified due date?” asked Shlomo.
“The default time for an unspecified loan is 30 days,” replied Rabbi Dayan (C.M. 73:1). “Therefore, an unspecified loan granted before Elul is past due, and canceled by Shemittah. Moreover, many authorities rule that even a loan granted in Elul — although not due until after Rosh Hashanah – is canceled. While the lender cannot force payment until 30 days, a responsibility to pay exists even beforehand if the borrower can do so easily. Furthermore, the practice in some places is to demand payment even within 30 days” (Bach, C.M. 67:13; Ketzos 67:4; Tumim 67:16; Minchas Shlomo 3:132.19.3; Magen Avraham 307:14).
“What about a loan due in installments, some before Shemittah and some afterwards?” asked Shlomo.
“Installments due before Shemittah that were not paid are canceled by Shemittah,” answered Rabbi Dayan, “whereas installments due after Shemittah are not canceled” (Responsa Rambam #241).
“Of course,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “if the lender writes a pruzbul, the loan is not canceled” (to be addressed in a future column, iy”H).
From the BHI HotlineBuse Ride
The father of a chassan hired a bus to drive the chassan’s friends from the Catskills to the city to attend the wedding. I also needed to go to the city, so I got on the bus with the chassan’s friends.
Q: Do I owe money for the ride? Was it permitted for me to take the ride, or did it involve theft?
A: In Halachah a squatter’s obligation to pay for the use of another’s property depends on whether the owner suffered a loss. Hence, if it is a rental property, the squatter must pay since while he was there the owner could not have rented it to others (zeh neheneh v’zeh chaser).
In contradistinction, when the house is not a rental property, so that squatting does not cause the owner a loss, the squatter is exempt. This is true even when the squatter is the type of person who usually rents space to live. Although he benefits by not paying rent, he does not cause the owner a loss so he is exempt — zeh neheneh v’zeh lo chaser. It is important to note that although the squatter cannot be compelled to pay for his use of the house, nevertheless the owner may prevent further use of his property and demand payment for that use (C.M. 363:6).
If, however, in the course of squatting he diminished the value of the house — e.g., the walls were freshly painted and are now darkened due to use — even if the loss he caused is minimal, we can then force him to pay the full value of his benefit (ibid. 363:7). [Regarding whether the owner could obligate the squatter to pay the standard rent if the loss he generates is less than a perutah, see Shaar Hamelech, Gezeilah 3:9; Chochmas Shlomo 363:6; and Minchas Pitim 363:7.]
According to many Poskim, when there is no damage to the owner it is permitted for one to live in an empty residence as a squatter even l’chat’chilah, because it is assumed that the owner does not mind since it does not cost him anything (Chasam Sofer, C.M. 79, s.v. vn”l; Nesivos 146:9 and 250:16).
In your case, if the bus was full, taking a ride obviously caused a loss since the chassan’s father hired the bus to transport his son’s friends comfortably and without having to stand. Accordingly, you should not take a seat, but if you did you would have to pay the chassan’s father.
If there were empty seats, the principle of zeh neheneh v’zeh lo chaser applies because the chassan’s father has no intention of renting out the empty seats and you would be permitted, even l’chatchilah, to take a seat on the bus. This assumes, of course, that the father paid a flat fee for the bus and was not charged per passenger; if that were the case, it would represent a loss (see C.M. 264:4).
The additional gas that is used to transport you is considered inconsequential even if the chassan’s father paid for the gas, because in any case he will not keep the unused gas (Meishiv B’Halachah 19).
It goes without saying that it is not permitted to ride on a public bus without paying because the bus company’s policy clearly states that they only permit paying riders on the bus. A public bus is therefore categorized as designated for rent, in which case squatting is prohibited.
Money mattersPaid Witnesses#271
Q: Can witnesses receive payment for their testimony in beis din?
A: The testimony of one who takes payment to testify is invalid (Bechoros 29a). If the witness was paid to state a specific testimony, he is certainly disqualified and considered an interested party (noge’a b’davar). However, if he was paid to state whatever testimony he knows regarding the case, according to most authorities the disqualification of his testimony is a Rabbinic penalty. Thus, if the witness returned the money, his testimony becomes valid (Rema, C.M. 34:18; Pischei Teshuvah 34:24-25).
Nonetheless, if the witness incurred a loss in coming, such as travel expenses or lost wages, he is entitled to ask for compensation (see C.M. 9:4).
Furthermore, someone who undertakes to become a witness — e.g., to sign a kesubah, get or other legal document — is allowed to receive payment. Some maintain that he should be paid by both parties (see Nesivos 34:10; Pischei Choshen, Sechirus 8:45).