Aharon was visiting another city with three classmates. “I have an uncle nearby,” Aharon said. “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 it to 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 that I lent you?” his uncle asked.
“I gave it to my classmate,” said Aharon. “It’s now bein ha’zmanim 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 right now,” said Aharon. “I’ll pay you if I’m liable; if not, you’ll have to wait.”
“I’m not interested in waiting,” said his uncle. “It’s already been two months. By the time you start learning again, each one will have his own issues …”
“Perhaps we should ask Rabbi Dayan whether I am 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 Aharon. “Am I liable for the loan?”
“A person can serve as an agent to borrow on behalf of others, as with any other transaction,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Thus, if someone stated that he is borrowing on behalf of so-and-so, only so-and-so is liable” (Chavas Daas, Y.D. 160:8).
“Conversely, if the agent never stated that the loan is for another,” continued Rabbi Dayan, “the lender has a direct claim against the agent as the borrower, since he was not aware that the loan was for another. If the agent subsequently gave the money to the one who sent him, it is as if he lent him his own money, and he now becomes a lender to him.”
“A similar halachah is found regarding one who bought an item on behalf of another and did not indicate to the seller that he was an agent,” added Rabbi Dayan. “If the agency is void — e.g., the agent did not follow the instructions of the one who sent him — the sale remains valid to the agent, and he has to deal with the sender.” (C.M. 182:2)
“I told my uncle that the money was for my classmate,” noted Aharon.
“Even so, Chavas Daas writes that if the lender does not know the one who sent the borrower at all,” replied Rabbi Dayan, “he retains a claim against the agent, since he has no recourse but to rely on the agent. Thus, you must pay your uncle.” (Chavas Daas, Y.D. 168–9:20)
“If the agent did not tell the lender that he is an agent, does he have any claim whatsoever against the one who sent him?” asked Aharon. “Alternatively, could the agent decide to keep the money for himself?”
“Chavas Daas maintains that if the agent fulfilled his agency properly, the lender has a claim against the one who sent him as well,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Furthermore, in such a case, the agent acquires the money on behalf of the sender (zachin) and cannot keep it for himself.
“However, others maintain that the lender has no claim against the sender,” concluded Rabbi Dayan. “Thus, they maintain that the agent can choose to keep the money.” (Machaneh Ephraim, Hil. Shluchin #12; Pischei Choshen, Halva’ah 7:17–18)
This article is intended for learning purposes and not to be relied upon halacha l’maaseh. There are also issues of dina d’malchusa to consider in actual cases.
Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, which is headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, shlita, a noted dayan. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, please call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e‑mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e‑mail to email@example.com.