Editor’s note: Parties to a dispute are almost always supposed to seek compromise (peshara) rather than strict din. In fact, the Gemara (Bava Metzia 30b) states that Yerushalayim was destroyed because cases were settled based on din (rather than lifnim meshuras hadin). We encourage readers, therefore, to read this column – which often addresses human disputes – as a source of Torah knowledge, not a guide for ideal Torah behavior.
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Aharon was visiting another city with three classmates. “I have an uncle nearby,” Aharon told his friends. “While you eat, I want to hop over and visit him.”
“Could you borrow $300 for me?” asked Shalom. “I need some cash.”
“I can ask,” replied Aharon.
“One of my friends needs $300,” Aharon said to his uncle at the end of his visit. “Would you mind lending him?”
“I’m happy to,” said his uncle. “Here’s $300.”
Aharon returned to his classmates and gave Shalom the money.
Two months later, Aharon visited his uncle again. “What’s with the $300 I lent you?” his uncle asked.
“I gave it to my classmate,” said Aharon. “It’s now summer and we’re on vacation. I’ll see him again in another month when we resume learning.”
“Then I’d like you to pay me,” said his uncle. “Deal with your friend when you see him again.”
“I appreciate that you helped my friend,” said Aharon. “I did not borrow the money, though; it was for him.”
“I think that you are considered the borrower,” said his uncle. “You asked me for the money and I handed it to you.”
“But I said that it was for him,” argued Aharon.
“I don’t know your friend at all,” replied his uncle. “I relied on you!”
“I’m tight on cash now,” said Aharon. “I’ll pay you if I’m liable; if not, please wait.”
“I’m not interested in waiting,” said his uncle. “It’s already been two months.”
“Perhaps we should ask Rabbi Dayan whether I’m liable,” suggested Aharon.
“Let’s do that!” concurred his uncle.
The two went to Rabbi Dayan. “I borrowed money from my uncle for a friend two months ago,” said Ahaon. “Am I liable for the loan?”
“A person can serve as an agent to borrow on behalf of others,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Thus, if someone stated that he is borrowing on behalf of so-and-so, only so-and-so is liable.” [Chavos Da’as, Y.D. 160:8]
“But if the agent never stated that the loan is for another,” continued Rabbi Dayan, “the lender has a direct claim against the agent since he was not aware that the loan was for another. If the agent subsequently gave the money to the person who asked him to borrow money on his behalf, it is like he lent him his own money, and he now becomes a lender vis-à-vis him.”
“A similar halacha concerns a person who bought an item on behalf of another and did not indicate to the seller that he is an agent,” added Rabbi Dayan. “If the agency is void – e.g., the agent did not follow the sender’s instructions – the sale remains valid vis-à-vis the agent.” [C.M. 182:2]
“I told my uncle that the money was for my classmate,” said Aharon.
“Even so, the Chavos Da’as writes that if the lender does not know the sender at all,” replied Rabbi Dayan, “he retains a claim against the agent. Thus, you must pay your uncle.” [Chavos Da’as Y.D. 168-9:20]
“If the agent did not tell the lender that he is an agent, does he have any claim against the person he was doing the favor for?” asked Aharon. “Alternatively, could the agent decide to keep the money for himself?”
“The Chavos Da’as maintains that if the agent fulfilled his agency properly, the lender also has a claim against the person who asked for the favor,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Furthermore, in such a case, the agent acquires the money on behalf of the person who sent him and he cannot keep it for himself.
“However, others maintain that the lender has no claim against the original person,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “and the agent can choose to keep the money.” [Machaneh Ephraim, Hil. Shluchin #12; Pischei Choshen, Halva’ah 7:17-18]