By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
In last week’s article we posed a question concerning the Yungerman from Bnei Brak who received money from a wealthy man because the wealthy man thought he was someone else. Is he obligated to return the money to the rich man? Does he have to give the money to Rabbi Yungerman since he was not the intended recipient? We also asked whether the rich man is required to give Rabbi Yungerman the full amount since he did not fulfill his promise to him?
Reb Shlomo Zalman Ullman and Rabbi Yaakov Greenwald both are of the opinion that since Rabbi Yungerman never received the money, and therefore did not have ownership of the money, the yungerman from Bnei Brak definitely does not have an obligation to pay Rabbi Yungerman. The yungerman from Bnei Brak should go back to the donator and see if he needs to return the money to him or not by asking him if it is okay for him to keep it.
Reb Nissim Karelitz and others agreed but said that chances are that when the rich man will hear what happened with the money, he will definitely be mochel it.
Reb Yitzchok Zilbershtein says that the yungerman really never got the money since it was for his baby and the yungerman was just an acting agent for his son. He is just paying the baby’s debt to the doctor and therefore he is not responsible to the rich man. In addition, the fact is that the money came to the child’s creditor (the doctor) after the rich man was miyaesh from it. Therefore there is no reason for him to pay back the rich man.
Rabbi Naftoli Nussbaum and Rabbi Mendel Sporn say that the fact that the rich man did not try to cancel the check shows that he is mochel and the rich man does not need to be asked. This is all in a case where the rich man gave a check, but if it would have been a cash donation, then this theory would be incorrect and the yungerman would need to ask the rich man if he was mochel.
The consensus of all the gedolim regarding whether the rich man still owes Rabbi Yungerman money or not is that a rich man who is always hard pressed for time does promises to give the poor person if he will get to him in the proper time. The fact that Rabbi Yungerman was late exempted the rich man from giving him the money. The Chazon Ish was once asked the following question. What happens if you are in shul and a person walks around collecting money from the mispallelim. He is on his way to you and you pull out money to give him, but the collector never makes it to you. Are you obligated to run after him to give him the money? The Chazon Ish responded that you are not required to run after him. A person is ready to give if the poor person gets to him; therefore it is not considered changing money from one tzedaka to another.