Ethics

For the week ending 30 December 2006 / 9 Tevet 5767

Is this Money Refundable?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Question: The failure of a number of boys in my son's yeshiva to come to prayer services on time caused the yeshiva heads to penalize latecomers with a substantial fine. One of his friends, a boy who lost his father, was fined by the yeshiva mashgiach who saw a need to teach him an important lesson for life. Aware of this orphan's precarious financial situation, my son and some of his friends put together the money needed for paying the fine. Upon receiving the payment the mashgiach promised him that if he would come on time for an entire month he would get the money back. Now that he met the challenge and received the money, he wants to know whether he has to give it back to the friends who supplied him with it. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: This question actually came before Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, the rav of the Ramat Elchanan community in Bnei Brak. He ruled that the orphan could hold on to the money for his personal use and gave two reasons for his decision.

First of all it was unusual in that yeshiva for money paid for a fine to be returned to the offender so that it must be assumed that all of his friends gave him that money as an unconditional gift.

Secondly, in addition to providing financial assistance for a needy orphan, these friends saw their somewhat embarrassing collection of funds a way to motivate this latecomer to improve his behavior. Since they achieved their goal they certainly consider their money well spent.

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