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David Klein was recently divorced. Before writing the get, the Beis Din thoroughly questioned David about his various names and his father’s names, including their civil names and common nicknames.

Finally, after some consideration, his name in the get was written as Dovid Avraham hamechuneh (=known as) David v’hamechuneh Dave ben Shlomo Elimelech.”

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In the aftermath of the divorce, David needed a $15,000 loan. He turned to one of the wealthy members of his community, Mr. Silver, who agreed to provide the loan.

David sat down with Mr. Silver to draft a loan contract.

“How should I write your name?” asked Mr. Silver.

“Good question!” exclaimed David.

Mr. Silver looked at David quizzically. “Don’t you know your name?” he asked.

“I always knew my name simply as David Klein,” replied David. “However, when the Beis Din wrote the get, they wrote my name: Dovid Avraham, known as David and known as Dave, son of Shlomo Elimelech.”

“That is a mouthful,” acknowledged Mr. Silver.

“I don’t know whether to give you my Hebrew or English name,” explained David, “my first name or full name, with my father’s name and nickname or without.”

“I suggest we start with something simple,” laughed Mr. Silver. “In my business documents, I never write names as they are written on a get; just the standard name.”

“That helps,” said David. “But do you want my full official name or just the first and last; Hebrew or English?”

“Whatever you prefer,” said Mr. Silver.

“Well, then it’s David Klein,” replied David.

“That sounds like a pretty common name,” noted Mr. Silver.

“I know,” said David. “There’s another person in my shul with the name David Klein; it sometimes causes confusion. We have different middle names, though.”

Mr. Silver decided to call Rabbi Dayan. He asked:

“What name or names should I put on the loan contract?”

“In previous eras, people were identified through their name and father’s name, and by the city in which they resided,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “When a person had numerous names or nicknames, Chazal instituted that they be included in a get, but did not require this in monetary documents” (C.M. 49:1-2; Shach 49:13; E.H. 129:1).

“Nowadays, it is more common to identify people by their first and last names. Therefore, it is preferable to write the first and last names in monetary documents, since the primary purpose of names in documents is to identify the parties. In this respect, it does not matter whether the Hebrew or English name is used” (Pischei Choshen, Shtaros 7:[15]).

“The Mishnah (B.B. 172a) teaches that if two people in the city share the same name, which is listed as the borrower in a loan document, the lender cannot collect from either one of them, since each one can claim that he was not the borrower and deflect the lender to the other person. In this case, additional identification should be added to the name, such as the grandfather’s name, or Kohen or Levi, if one of them is such. Alternatively, this issue can be solved nowadays by adding the person’s middle name or identification number” (C.M. 49:7).

“If the borrower’s signature is identifiable on the loan document, it can also serve as identification, and the lender would be able to collect from him. Similarly, if witnesses testify who borrowed, or there is other evidence to whom the loan was granted, the lender can collect from him.

“In the converse case, though, where the shared name appears as the lender’s, the person who holds the loan document is assumed to be the lender and can collect repayment of the loan; the borrower cannot claim that this person is not the lender and the document fell from the other person who shares the name (ibid.).

“Thus,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “it is important that the borrower be most clearly identified (ibid.).”

Verdict: The names in a loan contract should identify both parties simply and clearly, especially that of the borrower.

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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 subscribe@businesshalacha.com. 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 ask@businesshalacha.com.