Manny from Givat Mordechai asks:
I borrowed money from my not-yet-observant uncle. I gave
him a cheque for repayment, which is due on Erev Rosh Hashonoh (eve of
the Jewish New Year). Is there any problem if he delays cashing the cheque
till after Rosh Hashonoh? Can I write a pruzbul on his behalf
without his knowledge and approval?
There is a major dispute amongst the halachic authorities as
to the status of a cheque. Some consider it to be a form of payment, similar to
money. Accordingly, your uncle is deemed to have received repayment of the loan
before the end of sh’mittah. Others are of the opinion that a cheque is
merely a document containing an order to the bank to pay money to the bearer.
Thus, payment of the loan will only have taken place once the cheque is cashed.
If your uncle does not deposit the cheque before Rosh Hashonoh, the debt
becomes annulled at the end of the sh’mittah year.
Can one write a pruzbul on behalf of another Jew
without his knowledge, since this is for his good (it permits him to collect
debts after the end of sh’mittah in the permitted way)? This question was
asked to the Chazon Ish by Rav Eliyohu Dushnitzer (see Teshuvos ve’Hanhogos
3:450). He replied that this depends on the expected reaction of the lender. If
he is an observant Jew who was unable to write a pruzbul or forgot to do
so, one can assume that he will be happy that someone did the job for him. One
can therefore write a pruzbul on his behalf without his knowledge.
However, one who does not accept Torah laws is assumed not to have any desire
for such a document to be drawn up on his behalf. The principle of zochin
le’odom shelo befonov (performing an act for a person’s good without his
knowledge) would not apply to him. You must therefore assess your uncle’s
expected reaction before drawing up a pruzbul on his behalf.