Rabbi Meir Orlean
Could you lend me $10,000 for a year?” Aryeh asked Naftali. “My budget won’t allow repaying more than $1,000 a month, though. I ask that we limit the repayment to monthly installments of $1,000, beginning a year from now.”
“Let me get back to you,” replied Naftali.
A week later, Naftali said: “I can do it. We’ll have monthly installments of $1,000, as you requested.”
During the year, Naftali traveled abroad on a sabbatical. He returned a year and a half later, and approached Aryeh.
“I was abroad for a while,” said Naftali. “You owe me $6,000 for that time period. I’d like you to pay the full amount past due.”
“That’s crazy!” exclaimed Aryeh. “I can’t afford to pay that amount at once.”
“What’s the difference?” replied Naftali. “Had you paid monthly, it would have been the same!”
“That’s not true,” responded Aryeh. “We would have budgeted and cut back on expenses to keep within our balance in the bank. I emphasized that I could pay only $1,000 each month, and we arranged the monthly payment on that basis.”
“You should have set the money aside for me,” reasoned Naftali.
“You didn’t ask for payment,” insisted Aryeh. “I even tried contacting you but couldn’t reach you. I figured that you were giving me a grace period on the loan. I’m willing to pay the monthly installments starting now.”
“I was nice enough to lend you,” said Naftali. “Now you expect that I should wait six more months to receive all my money back?”
“It’s not my fault that you were away,” argued Aryeh. “It was your choice to let the issue sit without contacting me or leaving instructions.”
“I see that we’re not getting anywhere,” said Naftali. “Let’s consult Rabbi Dayan.”
“Aryeh owes me monthly installments of $1,000,” said Naftali. “I was away and didn’t collect for half a year. Can I demand payment of $6,000?”
“A number of Acharonim cite from Maharash Yonah,” answered Rabbi Dayan, “that when the lender agreed to repayment in installments and neglected to collect, he cannot demand all the missing installments in one lump sum” (Knesses Hagedolah, Tur, C.M. 73:7; Ketzos 73:9; Bnei Chayei, C.M. 73:1).
“Can you elaborate?” asked Aryeh.
“Responsa Shai Lamora (#34), by Shabbetai b. Yonah, who lived 350 years ago in Salonika, Greece, addressed this case,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Someone settled with his creditor to repay his debt in yearly installments, since he was limited in his ability to pay. The lender then went to a foreign country and did not request payment for a long time. When he returned, he demanded payment of the entire past sum.
“Maharash Yonah ruled that a lender cannot demand the entire sum at once,” continued Rabbi Dayan. “This is because he agreed to installments of a limited sum and forwent larger payments, and because the missed payments were due to him. The borrower has to pay only in installments as agreed or as seen fit by the beis din.”
“What if the delay was due to the borrower?” asked Naftali.
“Maharash Yonah indicates that the lender could then demand payment of the entire past amount due,” replied Rabbi Dayan, “since he did not forgo his right to collect this money promptly. This applies even if he asked the borrower for payment in private, not in the presence of witnesses or beis din” (Erech Hashulchan 73:5, by Rav Yiztchak Teib of Tunis).
“Additionally, in the case of a renter,” added Rabbi Dayan, “if the landlord did not collect the rent promptly, he can later demand full payment, since the purpose of monthly payments in this case is to set the rental amount, and the intent is to pay whenever the landlord demands” (Paamonei Zahav, 73:1; Pischei Choshen, Halvaah 3:9).
“Therefore,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “since Aryeh initially stated that he could not afford more than $1,000 a month, Naftali cannot demand immediate payment of the installments that he neglected to collect.”