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Shlomo brought his car in for servicing on Friday morning.

“The car needs a tune-up,” he said to Moish, the mechanic. “Recently I’ve also been having problems starting the engine. I don’t know whether it’s the battery, the spark plugs or the starter.”


“Don’t worry,” said Moish. “We’ll check out the system!”

“Fix whatever has to be done,” said Shlomo. “I trust your judgment.”

At 2 p.m., Moish called Shlomo. “The car is ready; we repaired what had to be fixed,” he said. “I’m closing shortly, so if you want your car back before Shabbos, please come soon!”

Shlomo came by 15 minutes later. “How much do I owe for the repair?” he asked Moish.

“I didn’t have a chance to ask the worker exactly what he did, and he already left,” Moish replied. “I’ll check with him next week, and let you know.”

On Monday afternoon, shortly before Mincha, Moish called Shlomo. “The bill came to $700,” he said. “Please stop by to pay.”

Shlomo looked at his watch. It was already late afternoon; he wouldn’t have time to go to the garage and get back to shul for Mincha. On the other hand, he knew that there was a mitzvah to pay wages promptly, on that day, and a prohibition – bal talin – to delay payment.

Shlomo called Rabbi Dayan and asked:

“Does ‘bal talin‘ apply to this situation? Is there a need to pay promptly before sunset?”

“There are several specific mitzvos associated with prompt payment of wages,” replied Rabbi Dayan.

“There is a positive commandment: ‘b’yomo titen scharo – on that day shall you pay his hire’ (Devarim 24:15), and a prohibition: ‘lo salin pe’ulas sachir itecha ad boker – a worker’s wage shall not remain with you overnight until morning’ (Vayikra 19:13).

“However, these mitzvos have several limitations. For example, one violates them only if the worker asked, or at least indicated, that he expects immediate payment in the day or night during which he completed the job, or at the end of a set time period (such as at the end of the week or month). However, if he willingly agrees to accept payment at a later day – the employer does not violate. Furthermore, once the employer did not pay immediately – whether in violation of the prohibition, because the worker did not ask for payment, or because payment was initially arranged for a date after completing the work – there is no further violation” (C.M. 339:9,10).

“For this reason, if the arrangement is to pay after the month is over, such as on the first or the tenth of the following month, or if the employee or employer first has to reckon what’s owed, some write that there is no violation of bal talin, even if the employer subsequently delays, while others question this” (see Rema 339:9; Sma 339:18; Pischei Choshen, Sechirus 9:[40,44]).

“Nonetheless, the Gemara (Kesubos 86a) teaches that prias baal chov mitzvah, there is a general mitzvah to pay one’s debts. This is found mostly in the context of repaying loans, but presumably applies to any obligation.

“Furthermore, Mishlei (3:28) teaches: ‘Do not tell your fellow go and come [tomorrow] and I’ll give it to you – when you have it with you’ – bal tomar. This adds a rabbinic admonition if a person stalls payment when he is able to pay promptly or on the arranged date” (C.M. 339:8).

“These latter two mitzvos do not have a specific time frame, and require a person not to evade or stall without good reason payment of his obligation. However, they allow reasonable delay, such as time to daven.

“Thus, since the work was completed on Friday,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “the specific mitzvos of b’yomo and bal talin no longer apply, so you can daven and pay later. However, the general obligations remain to pay promptly, as reasonable.”

Verdict: The specific mitzvos of b’yomo titen scharo and bal talin no longer apply when the wages are not expected the same day (or night) that the work is completed, but there is a general mitzvah of bal tomar requiring prompt payment as reasonable.

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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].