Mr. Phil N. Tropp supported a certain yeshiva and loaned it $100,000 for a three-year period. After the three years passed, though, he never asked to be repaid and continued supporting the yeshiva with yearly donations.
When he passed away, his children learned of the loan and asked the yeshiva’s financial director, Mr. Kaspi, to repay it.
“I assumed that your father had forgiven the loan,” he said. “He came to all the dinners and contributed generously and never said a word to me about it. I think he meant to let it go.”
“We don’t think so,” his children replied.
The two parties couldn’t agree, so they approached Rabbi Dayan. After hearing the claims of both sides, he said, “The Gemara [Kesubos 87a] states that repaying a loan is a mitzvah, which is presumed to be d’Oraisa based on a number of possible sources [Minchas Chinuch #259; Pischei Choshen, Halvaah 2:1].
“Even if many years pass before the lender demands the loan, the borrower remains obligated to repay it. We do not say the lender forgave the loan [Choshen Mishpat 98:1].
“Nonetheless, the Ketzos [104:2] writes that the borrower is not commanded to pay until the lender demands the money. The Nesivos (104:1) disagrees, writing that even if the lender forgot about the loan and does not demand repayment, the borrower remains obligated to repay it.
“Like the Ketzos, the Shiltei Gibborim, cited by the Shach [232:2], maintains that if the lender does not demand payment, the borrower does not have to pay on his own initiative. By not demanding payment, he is evidently intending to give the lender a gift. The Shach concludes that this position is questionable.
“The Shaar Mishpat [98:1] rejects the Shiltei Gibborim’s implication that the lender forgave the loan since mechilah in the mind does not suffice. However, he accepts the practical ramification that the borrower does not have to pay of his own accord since the lender is obviously granting him grace time.
“Other Acharonim argue that even the Shiltei Gibborim only meant that the lender is granting the borrower extra time, not that he forgave the loan. Thus, if the lender dies, the inheritors can collect it [Erech Shai 339:10; Bris Avraham, Choshen Mishpat #5; Mishmeres Shalom 232:2].
“Some also suggest,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “that the Shiltei Gibborim is discussing a case where there is reason to assume the lender knew of the loan and refrained from claiming it. If it seems, though, that he simply forgot about it, he agrees that the borrower must come forward to pay [Pischei Choshen, Halvaah 2:4].”