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Learning Torah Doesn’t Exonerate One from Paying Debts

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court ruled that the study of torah cannot be used an excuse not to pay one’s debts. Justice Oded Maor ruled in the case of a lawsuit brought against an avreich by the International Bank for his failure to pay his debt. The court stated that the fact that he learns 14 hours daily and does not work is not a valid excuse and he must pay his debts.

The avreich wanted to make monthly payments of 150 NIS, as is commonly done in the case of an unemployed person. The bank was not pleased with this arrangement and challenged the payment schedule in court. The court sided with the bank, unwilling to hear the defense, which tried explaining the payment terms given to the avreich are in line with payment terms given to unemployed persons. The court however would not hear of it, insisting the avreich pay 5,000 NIS a month. The court was unwilling to view an avreich learning as one being unemployed, emphasizing that sitting and learning does not excuse one from looking for work, hence the learning of torah does not permit one to claim he cannot work.

The court instructed the court’s collection service to determine how much he can/should pay due to his circumstances and unwillingness to get a job.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

16 Responses

  1. Seems like a pretty obvious ruling. Why would anyone who owes debts choose not to work to pay them off? Don’t be frum on other people’s cheshbon

  2. If the person was sitting and learning at his own expense, that means he probably has assets somewhere to pay the debt.

    Alternatively, if the individual is receiving economic support from someone (relatives, supports, the kollel), the economic support is conditional upon his learning, then it is a job and he is not unemployed.

    If in fact the person is not being paid to learn, then learning is a mere hobby and he should get a job (perhaps as a kollel student, or a teacher, or whatever) so he canpay his debts.

    The question should be asked as to what bank loans money to someone without determining that the person can repay them – though that was the minhag among bankers in recent years (which explains the depressed state of the world’s economy). Of course if the bank was aware that he had no assets, it could be argued they agreed to be repaid at the rate of an asset-free unemployed person – in which case the lower amount is reasonable, and the bank probably should be seized by the local bank liquidator (if it hasn’t already been done so).

    The fact that Israeli consider kollels students who are paid to learn as unemployed, whereas university students studying the same period and receiving “support” are considered employed, suggests the Israelis are a bit confused, but that’s another issue.

  3. Leaving aside the Judge and his motives.
    From a Torah prespective, is one aloud to borrow and not pay back their debt with the excuse that there are learning and do not work?

  4. the title of the article says it all– nowhere in halacha does learning torah excuse someone from paying his debts. fa’kert (the opposite) anyone who seriously learns torah immediately realizes that paying ones debts is of immediate concern and paramount importance– many gadolim would not even go to sleep at night without making sure their debts are paid off.

    this avreich should seriously find a job, he’s not cut out to sit and learn 14 hours aday and have the chutzpah to think he doesn’t have to pay his debts by the lame excuse that he is unemployed. this is turning torah from Chaim to Maves– what a chilul hashem!!

  5. If you read the article it does not say that he is saying that he is not paying the debt – he wants to pay it off slower than the bank would like. The only question is – is learning considered like an unemployed person or not. If all of a sudden it is like an employed person (so he has to pay the debt off faster) then why do all Israelis complain that chareidim don’t work.

  6. im a little bit confused. everyone hits the roof when there is an insinuation that being in kollel is anything other than the highest form of work. so if its work, he is working. if hes working he should pay his debt.

  7. The arrogant mindset among some of the kollel yungerleit that their learning should take priority of everything and excuses them from all other obligations is at the core of growing antagonism among Israelis against Chareidim. While most Chareidim manage to balance work and learning, those who would seek to evade their debts and obligations (whether to a bank for a loan or to the Medinah for military or alternate service) will be forced to change their ways by the courts.

  8. All you guys are failing to be procise.

    He is willing to pay the debt at the rate of $50 a month. Why are you so sure that because he’s an Avreich means he can so easily find a job? For Israeli avreichim finding a job is an uphill battle.

    If, however, he was trying to get away from paying a debt, that truly is very wrong.

  9. Nowhere in the article does it say the Avreich in question doesn’t want to pay his debt. He asked for better payment terms. Stop being so negative.

  10. just the opposite, ohave et haMelacha v’soneh et haRabbanut is what is written in perkei avot. It is time we were m’kiyam this b’hiddur.

    BTW, how much did the avraich owe?

  11. azny and others, the bank has no claim against this avreich. Israeli banks including the International purport to operate under a heter iska. This means (roughly) that they don’t lend to their customers at ribbis but enter into joint ventures with them. So this bank can’t honestly come along and say that the avreich didn’t pay his “debt.” Unless it considered the heter mere window dressing from the outset, which might make the avreich and nearly all of us oiver on issur ribbis….

  12. Once again everybody here is jumping on the bandwagon before they know the facts. This isn’t personal debt, it’s Real Estate debt. Here’s how it works: a person wants to buy an apartment thinking his monthly payments are close to what they would pay in rent. They then get a loan for the down payment from a gemach or relative (or go collecting in America $1 at a time). They then “close” with the bank and are wacked with an adjustable rate (usually over 10- 15%)that’s way beyond their means of keeping up the minimum payments. At that point they look to settle with the bank for a lower payment- and when the bank refuses they claim poverty (hence the 150 shekel indignant payment). Just to prove the enormity of this loan the judge is demanding mandatory MINIMUM payment of 60,000 shekel (about $20,000) a year for who knows how many years! Welcome to the subprime market- and this is still going on EVERY day in Israel.

  13. In his kuntrasi l’chasanim, Rav Shlomo Wolbe zt”l writes that when you reach the point where you need to take out loans and you don’t know how you’re going to repay them, it’s time to leave kollel.

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