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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 22, 2008 / 22 Elul 5768

Thou Shalt Pay

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: I gave a check to a local merchant, but it hasn't been cashed in months. Probably they lost it. Do I have to tell them?


A: It should be obvious that there is an ethical obligation to pay for merchandise. One way this obligation is reflected in Jewish law is in the Talmudic dictum, "It is a commandment for the debtor to repay".


Here is the passage in context:


Rav Cahana said to Rav Pappa, since you say that it is a mitzvah for the debtor to repay, what if he says I'm not interested in doing a mitzvah?


Rav Pappa replied that just as a person can be punished for transgressing a negative commandment, he can be compelled to fulfill a positive one. It makes no difference if it is a ritual commandment like making a sukkah or taking the lulav on Sukkos, or a commercial commandment like paying a loan. (1)


Rav Pappa is teaching us that a loan is not merely a right of the creditor to collect; it is a positive religious obligation of the debtor to pay.


It is true that in practice we expect the creditor to demand payment in some way. For instance, in many businesses it is customary for the service provider to send a bill. If the bill is late in coming, the customer generally doesn't have to take the initiative to go ahead and send the money.


Apparently the custom of waiting for the creditor to ask for the money is ancient, as it is discussed in many early authorities. The rabbinical authorities explain this custom can be justified because if the creditor delays asking for the money, it may possibly be that he is consciously allowing the debtor a little more time to give back the money. The rabbis understood that the commercial mentality is not necessarily synonymous with a "dog eat dog" mentality, and that even in commercial dealings a person may want to give the other party a break. (2)


However, this rationale makes sense only if we are sure that the creditor is aware of the outstanding debt, but for some reason is dilatory in collecting it. If you know that this merchant is often late in cashing checks, you would be justified in hanging on for a while before notifying them.


If on the other hand you think it is likely that your check has been lost or forgotten, then the original commandment to repay applies. At the very least you should notify the person to clarify the situation.


The same principle applies to another question sent by a reader: If you buy your ticket on the train from the conductor, you pay extra for the service. But what if the conductor never comes? I don't think you then have to pay for a ticket at the station when you get off; after all, you opted for a different service. But you do have to invest reasonable effort in finding a conductor or grabbing one's attention, in order to pay for the service that you selected. There is no need to comb the entire train, but simply biding your time in your seat could easily be interpreted as trying to avoid attention and escape payment.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Ketubos 86a (2) Shiltei Giborim commentary on Raf Alfasi, Bava Kamma 45b; Shach commentary Choshen Mishpat 332:2

IMPORTANT NOTE: Last week I wrote about providing facilities for the very risky business of day trading. I suggested that this is an inappropriate business unless certain safeguards are present, such as providing accurate information about the chances of success and insisting on an extended dry run with simulated trades to impress on newcomers the dangers of the trade. A number of readers wrote that a great many facilities do indeed insist on these safeguards. I am happy to hear it and to qualify my statements by saying I don't mean to pass judgment on the "average" day trading facility. My main message was, and remains, that this is business is ethically risky and a number of safeguards are necessary in order to run it in a responsible fashion.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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