Moshe and Yosef were vacationing in Mexico. One morning Yosef went out to buy some food while Moshe remained in the hotel. “I’ll be back in an hour,” Yosef said. “Later today we can go touring.”
An hour later, Moshe received a frantic call from Yosef. “I was kidnapped!” he cried. “They’re demanding that you transfer $250,000 by midnight to a foreign account, or else… I’m texting the account details.”
Moshe alerted the authorities and waited tensely, hoping that this was just a hoax. He tried contacting Yosef again in the afternoon, but the phone was disconnected. As the day wore on and Yosef did not return, Moshe grew increasingly concerned about Yosef’s life. He considered how he could get the ransom money. He approached a wealthy Mexican Jewish businessman.
“I will lend you the money,” replied the businessman, “but I want you to sign that you will repay.”
The frantic sound of Yosef’s voice was still ringing in Moshe’s ears. “Whatever I have to do,” he said. He signed a loan form for the stated sum, and the businessman transferred the $250,000 for the ransom that evening.
Moshe could not sleep all night, waiting to hear the sound of Yosef knocking on the door.
At 6 a.m., Moshe finally heard a knock. He jumped to the door, “Who is it?” he asked.
“It’s me, Yosef!” was the reply. “I’m back!”
Moshe opened the door and embraced Yosef. “I’m so relieved to see you alive!” he said.
“So am I!” replied Yosef, still in a daze. “I’ve never been so terrified in my life!”
After he calmed down a little, Yosef asked, “Where did you get the ransom money from?”
“I was able to borrow it from a local Jewish businessman,” said Moshe. “He made me sign that I would pay him back.”
“I feel I should pay,” said Yosef, “but I don’t have anything like that sum. My family also is in debt.”
“I was assuming you’d somehow cover the loan,” said Moshe. “If you can’t pay – I’m in trouble!”
“Maybe you don’t have to repay the loan,” suggested Yosef, “since you only borrowed the money to save my life.”
“We need to contact Rabbi Dayan,” said Moshe.
Moshe called Rabbi Dayan and related the unfortunate details. “Do I have to repay the loan?” he asked. “Does Yosef have to reimburse me? What if doesn’t have that sum, does he owe me in the future?”
“You are liable for the loan and Yosef is required to reimburse you,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “If he doesn’t have that sum, there is a dispute whether he owes you in the future.”
“Can you please elaborate?” asked Moshe.
“Rav Moshe Feinstein was asked about the Bobover Rebbe who borrowed money during the Holocaust to save European Jewry,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “He ruled that he is liable to repay the loan, even though it was to save the lives of others.”(Igros Moshe C.M. 2:63)
“What about Yosef’s liability to reimburse me?” asked Moshe.
“The Gemara [Sanhedrin 73a] derives from the verse lo sa’amod al dam rei’echa – you shall not stand by while your brother’s blood is shed – that one is required to lay out money to rescue his fellow Jew,” said Rabbi Dayan. “The Rosh, cited by the Tur [C.M. 426], adds that the rescued person has to reimburse him, since one is not obligated to save another with his own money when the rescued person is able to pay. The Rama similarly writes regarding pidyon shevuyim [redeeming captives] that the captive has to reimburse if he has funds.” (Y.D. 252:12)
“What if he does not have funds at that time?” asked Yosef. “Is he required to pay later?”
About the Author: Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to email@example.com. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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