Photo Credit:

“The toy store on Main Street is going out of business,” Mrs. Fisher said to her husband one evening. “They’re offering a 50 percent discount on everything!”

“I made a list of some toys the children asked for,” Mrs. Fisher continued. “Can you stop off at the store on your way home from work tomorrow?”


“I’m happy to treat the family,” replied Mr. Fisher.

On his way to work, Mr. Fisher passed the store. Large signs announced: “Going out of business. 50% discount on all items. All sales final. Cash only!

After work, Mr. Fisher found a parking spot a block away from the store. As he walked there, he met his neighbor, Mr. Landau, outside the supermarket.

“How are you?” Mr. Fisher greeted him.

Baruch Hashem, I’m glad to see you,” replied Mr. Landau. “I’m between jobs now and haven’t been able to make ends meet the past few months. I need to do some shopping, but don’t have money even for that. Do you have $200 that I could borrow for a month or two?”

“Sure,” replied Mr. Fisher. He took out his wallet and opened it; all he had were four $50 bills.

“That’s strange,” Mr. Fisher murmured.

“What’s that?” asked Mr. Landau.

“I thought that I had more cash on me,” Mr. Fisher replied. “I had planned to use cash for something.”

“Are you sure it’s okay?” asked Mr. Landau. “If not, I’ll manage somehow.”

“Yes, take the money,” replied Mr. Fisher soothingly. “It wasn’t anything critical.” He handed Mr. Landau the $200 with a smile, and headed back to his car.

When Mr. Fisher arrived home and opened the door, his children greeted him expectedly. “Mommy said that you were going to buy toys for us!” one of them blurted out.

“I’m sorry; I wasn’t able to get the toys today,” Mr. Landau said. “But I got you a mitzvah instead. Someone needed to borrow the cash for food.”

In the evening, Mr. Landau met Rabbi Dayan. “I have no regrets about what I did,” he said. “But I wonder:

“Was I required to lend Mr. Landau the money? Did my initial agreement to lend to him also obligate me?”

“There is a mitzvah to lend to a person in need when you have money available,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “However, when you need the money as well, a person’s own needs take priority over the needs of others, in accordance with the principle of chayecha kodmim (C.M. 97:1; B.M. 62a).

Nonetheless, this is when the needs are similar. However, if the other person needs the loan for basic needs, but your need for the money is much less significant, such as for buying toys, then the pressing needs of others take priority (see Nedarim 80b; Chasam Sofer Y.D. #234).

Furthermore, if you can withdraw other money from an ATM, even if it will take time to go there, you are required to give the loan, like other mitzvos of chesed that are required even if they take some time (see C.M. 265:1; 272:6; Ahavas Chesed 1:12).

“As far as your agreeing to lend him at first is concerned: When you agree to lend someone in need it is considered like a vow, and you may not retract (Rema Y.D. 213:2; Ahavas Chesed 1:11).

“Nonetheless, if you agreed under erroneous assumptions, it is considered a mistaken vow (neder b’taus) and is not binding; there is not even a need for hataras nedarim (Y.D. 232:1,6).

“Thus, if you agreed to lend because you mistakenly thought that you had additional cash in your wallet,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “you would not be bound by your initial agreement, had you had a comparable need for the money.”

Verdict: A person who agreed to lend money to someone in need but discovers that he is short of available cash is not required to lend, unless the other person’s need for the money is much greater than his, or if he can withdraw other money.


Previous articleHouse Passes $14.3 Billion Aid to Israel, 196 Democrats Vote Nay
Next articleNetanyahu’s Cabinet Decides to Stop Funding Gaza Nazis, Keep Paying Ramallah Nazis
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].