Photo Credit: Jewish Press

It was just a small business transaction. Shlomo was buying up some stock to resell in his chesed shop. But it involved 12,000 shekels, which was more than Shlomo had at his disposal, so he asked Avi, the seller, if he could pay for the merchandise with 4,000 shekels cash and two post-dated checks of 4,000 shekels each. Avi agreed. Shlomo received the stock and he gave Avi the cash and checks.

What could be simpler?

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A friend commented to Shlomo that it would have been wiser not to have done business with Avi as he’s a “mafioso” and not to be trusted. Shlomo shrugged the comment off. After all, he had the goods and he was the one who owed Avi money – so what could go wrong?

Eight weeks later, a few days after the second check he had given Avi was due, Shlomo got a call from him. “I wanted you to know that when I cash your check, I lose 10% – that’s 400 shekels.” Shlomo was waiting for him to demand an extra 10% to make up for his loss – but Avi didn’t. Instead, he continued, ”So why should someone else get that 10% and not you? Do you want me to return your check and then you can give me 3,600 shekels in cash?”

Shlomo thought for a moment. His friend had put doubts in his mind regarding Avi, but he couldn’t see any snag in this idea. He asked his rav a sheilah regarding whether or not he was allowed to do this or whether it would count as ribit (interest). When he got the go-ahead, he told Avi he’d get together the cash and they could do a swap. The next day they met – Avi returned Shlomo’s check to him, and Shlomo gave Avi 3,600 shekels in cash.

A few days later, Shlomo noticed he still had his check on him, and he was about to rip it up when he glanced at the check. There was no signature. The handwriting of the amount and date was not his writing. But the check definitely looked like his check. His information was printed on it and it seemed to come from his check book. So what was going on?

It seemed Avi was the tricky businessman Shlomo had been warned about. He had deposited Shlomo’s real, original check into his account, and when it had cleared he had made up this weird story to get an additional 3,600 shekels out of Shlomo!

But if Avi had forged Shlomo’s check, why hadn’t he copied his signature? Shlomo was baffled. He was convinced that he had been duped out of 3,600 shekels, but he couldn’t understand just what had happened with the check. Summoning all his courage, he picked up his phone and punched in Avi’s number. He’d give the man a chance to explain just what had been going on.

“Hi Avi – maybe you didn’t realize it, but you gave me the wrong check. There’s been a mistake.”

“No, no mistake – that’s the check you gave me.”

“But it definitely isn’t. I signed my check, and this one has no signature, and also the writing on the check isn’t my writing.”

“OK, I’ll explain. If you have a look, you’ll see that the pen you wrote the check with is an erasable pen.” Shlomo fumbled around in his pocket and pulled out his pen and stared in amazement. It was indeed an erasable pen. But that still didn’t give anyone permission to erase his words and change his check.

“Well, I left your check in my car,” Avi continued, “and the sun erased all your writing. That’s one of the problems with these pens. So I was going to give you your check back and ask you to rewrite it for me. But then I though of just exchanging it for cash which is what we did in the end.”

“If that’s really true, then why did you write the amount in your own writing?”

“Because I was scared of having a blank check in my pocket in case it got lost or stolen and someone would just write whatever amount they wanted on the check. So I decided to write the original amount on it. But I wasn’t going to forge your signature – that would have been really illegal. Hold the check up to the light and you’ll see your original signature.”

Shlomo lifted the check to the light and indeed his signature was still visible. He had to admit that the whole story was totally plausible, and had his friend not spoken lashon hara about Avi, he would never have even suspected him of any devious plan.

He thanked Hashem that he had decided to be dan Avi lekaf zechus and not rush to accuse him of trying to swindle him out of thousands of shekels.

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