“Can you lend me $10,000 for a year?” Aryeh asked Naftali. “Unfortunately, though, my budget won’t allow to repay you more than $1,000 a month. So I could repay you in monthly $1,000 installments over 10 months?”
“Sure,” Naftali replied.
After lending Aryeh the money, Naftali wound up traveling abroad on a sabbatical for six months. When he returned, he approached Aryeh and asked him for $6,000.”
“I can’t afford to pay that amount at once,” Aryeh replied.
“Why not?” Naftali asked. “Had I been in town you would have paid me $6,000 over the last six months.”
“True,” responded Aryeh, “but since you were away and weren’t collecting the money, I didn’t cut back on expenses as I had planned. I even tried contacting you, but couldn’t reach you. I figured you were giving me a grace on the loan. Of course I will start paying you in monthly $1,000 installments starting from this month.”
Naftali, however, thought it was only fair that he receive $6,000 immediately, so the two men approached Rabbi Dayan. After hearing both sides, Rabbi Dayan said:
“A number of Achronim cite the Maharash Yonah who says that when a lender agrees to accept repayment in installments and neglects to collect, he cannot demand all the missing installments in one lump sum.” [Knesses Hagedola, Tur, Choshen Mishpat 73:7; Ketzos 73:9; Bnei Chayei Choshen Mishpat 73:1]
“Can you elaborate?” asked Aryeh.
“Responsa Shai Lamora (#34), by Shabbetai b. Yonah, who lived 350 years ago in Salonika, Greece, addresses this case,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Someone settled with his creditor to repay a 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 sum.
“The Maharash Yonah ruled that the lender couldn’t demand the sum at once since he agreed to installments of a limited sum and forwent larger payment.”
“What if the delay was the borrower’s fault?” asked Naftali.
“The Maharash Yonah indicates that the lender can then demand payment of the entire amount due since he did not forego his right to collect the money promptly,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “This rule applies even if he asked the borrower for payment in private rather than in the presence of witnesses or beis din.” [Erech Hashulchan 73:5, by Rav Yiztchak Teib of Tunis]
“The laws of landlords and renters are different, however,” added Rabbi Dayan. “A landlord can demand full payment if he neglected to collect the rent for a few months.” [Pa’amoni Zahav, 73:1; Pischei Choshen, Halva’ah 3:9]