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3 Cheshvan 5767 - October 25, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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A Yom Iyun About the Halachic Status of Checks

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

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 liability.

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 interest.

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).


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