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Levi had borrowed $500 from Menachem, a friend from shul who lived a few blocks away.

One evening, Levi came to Menachem’s house to return the money, but no one answered the door. He called Menachem.


“No one is home now,” Menachem said. “We won’t return until late tonight. There’s a little box outside the front door; you can leave the money in the box.”

“Is that safe?” Levi asked.

“Safe enough,” said Menachem.

Levi put the money in an envelope and left it in the box. When Menachem came home that night, he looked in the box but didn’t find the money.

In the morning, Levi called to verify that Menachem received the money. “Actually, the money wasn’t in the box when I came home,” Menachem said. “Did you leave it there?”

“Certainly!” said Levi. “I left it in an envelope.”

“Well, it’s not here now,” said Menachem. “I trust that you left the money there, but someone must have taken it.”

“Then I’ll have to pay you again,” said Levi.

“Don’t be silly,” said Menachem. “I told you to leave the money in the box.”

“But you lent me the money, and, in the end, it was never returned to you,” insisted Levi. “I don’t want you to be out the money.”

“But it’s also not fair to make you pay double,” replied Menachem. “I took the risk, so it’s my loss.”

“I’d like to hear what Rabbi Dayan has to say about this,” said Levi.

Levi and Menachem approached Rabbi Dayan and asked:

“Did Levi fulfill his obligation of repaying the loan by leaving the money in the box?”

“A person who borrows money remains liable until he hands it back to the lender or his agent,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Placing the money in a secure courtyard or the lender’s house is like handing it to him, since a person’s property acquires on his behalf even without his awareness” (C.M. 120:1; Aruch HaShulchan 120:2; Pischei Choshen, Halva’ah 5:[2]).

“If the borrower did not place the money in the lender’s property, though, the Gemara (Gittin 78b) indicates that even if the lender instructs the borrower to throw the money to him in a public area, the borrower remains liable if it gets lost, unless the lender stated or clearly indicated that the borrower would thereby be exempt. This is because the lender presumably meant, ‘Throw the money, but continue watching it until it reaches my hands” (Sma 120:1).

“The Acharonim dispute a case in which the borrower is clearly not expected to continue watching. Sma indicates that he would then be exempt if the money got lost. However, several Acharonim write that this is not considered repayment, since the money never returned to the lender’s domain. Rather, this relies on mechila of the lender, so that the lender would have to state or clearly indicate that the borrower would thereby be exempt” (see Sma, Nesivos and Pischei Teshuva 120:1; Pischei Choshen, Halva’ah 5:[7]).

“Thus, for example, if the lender says, ‘Leave the money under the doormat’ in the hall of an apartment building – this is not considered repayment, since the lender cannot acquire the money in this manner, but rather as mechila, so that the lender would have to clearly indicate that by doing so the borrower is relieved of his debt. However, if the borrower put the money into a box belonging to the lender, so that he can acquire it, it would be considered as repayment if the lender said to leave it there, even if not fully secure” (see C.M. 200:1,3).

“Thus, Levi is exempt in this case,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “since he left it in Menachem’s box per the latter’s instructions.”

Verdict: A person who leaves payment per the directions of the lender in the lender’s property is considered as having repaid his loan. If he left it outside of the lender’s property, there must be a clear indication of mechila.


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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 protected]. 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 [email protected].