A standing-room-only crowd packed Yerushalayim's Heichal
Shmuel shul in Mattersdorf this week, participating in a Yom
Iyun about the halachic status of checks sponsored by Kollel
Choshen Mishpot-Ohel Yosef (which learns in the shul
throughout the year) and its Nesivos Chaim Beis Din.
The lead speaker was Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, one of
the leading authorities on Choshen Mishpat. He
discussed whether writing a check creates an immediate
responsibility to pay.
A practical example, which depends on this question, was
mentioned. A person gave a check as a present to a bar
mitzvah boy. Before the boy cashed the check, the one who
gave the check passed away. The children wished to cancel the
check, claiming that they don't have any responsibility to
give the boy a present. Their claim is invalid if writing a
check in itself creates an immediate liability since heirs
must pay their parents' debts. (A leading posek indeed
ruled that the heirs may not cancel the check.)
We should note that this question is the subject of a dispute
among contemporary gedolim. The consensus opinion is
that writing a check does create an immediate liability.
Rabbi Goldberg discussed an approach how writing a check can
create this liability. A later speaker, Rabbi Lifshutz
discussed another approach to how one can create
The second speaker was Rabbi Yissochor Schreiber, the author
of the Ta'am Ribis. The topic of his discourse was
ribis problems that involve checks.
One problem occurs when a person gives a moneychanger a
foreign-currency denominated check and obtains cash of that
denomination. The problem is that the dealer pays cash
immediately and only receives cash for the check after a
certain period of time. The speaker argued that some of the
money charged by the dealer constitutes ribis since the time
element is factored into the dealer's charges.
Another problem that was raised by the speaker concerns a
person's use of another person's credit card. If the credit
card owner is charged interest, he cannot pass the charge on
to the one who used the credit card since that would
constitute ribis from the user to the owner of the
credit card. (The Igros Moshe discusses a similar problem
when one takes over another person's mortgage. Rav Moshe,
zt'l, prohibited this as well.)
The third speaker was Rav Naftoli Nussbaum, the av beis
din at Ahavas Shalom. He discussed the circumstances when
the one who wrote a check that bounced must pay the bank
charges incurred by the payee of the check.
The basic issue is whether the writer of the bad check merely
caused a loss to the payee, since one is not liable in
beis din (though he is generally liable in the
Heavenly court) for causative damages known as grommo.
Rabbi Nussbaum explained that in case the check bounced
due to the carelessness of the writer of the check, he is
liable for the bank fees because the damages fall into the
category of garmi for which one is liable.
The final speaker was Rabbi Pinchas Lifshutz, the author of
the Sefer HaCheck Behalochoh. He discussed whether a
check is equivalent to cash in various halachic
circumstances. For example, he said that most poskim
maintain that payment with a check is a valid kinyan
wherever cash is valid according to the Torah. Therefore,
one who pays for an esrog or a wedding ring with a check
acquires the esrog or wedding ring according to the Torah. He
mentioned that some poskim maintain that one does not
fulfill the commandment to pay his worker on the same day if
he pays with a check. The logic probably is that the worker
may not be able to access the funds the same day if the bank
will not allow use of the funds until the check clears.
The audience found the shiurim very informative and
thought provoking. Crowds surrounded the speakers at the
conclusion of their lectures to ask and clarify points of
The speeches, as well as the speeches from the previous Yom
Iyun on Contracts, are available at Kol Haloshon. The
Kollel's seforim are available at the beis din
(phone numbers: (02) 502-3637 or 052 764- 2346).