I will pose this general question by presenting the following scenario:

Reuvan works for Shimon. One time, at the end of the day, when Shimon came to pay Reuvan for that day's work (which was $100.), Reuvan took the money and said, "This money you are giving me now is for the previous debt that you still owe me. Now please give me another $100 for today's work so you shouldn't be over on the din of ביום תתן שכרו" (that a worker should be paid on the day that the work is done).

Does Reuvan have the right (in halacha or according to Shulchan Aruch) to do such a thing like this: to consider the money now as being paid for the previous debt and not for today's work which is what Shimon had it in mind for?

  • 1
    I don't know if this has any impact, but does Shimon owe Reuvan money for work Reuvan did previously, or did Reuvan loan the money to Shimon?
    – zaq
    Nov 21, 2012 at 14:24
  • 1
    One can ask more generally: Can the recipient of funds owed for two reasons specify what they're given for? (I strongly suspect the answer is "no", else he'd likely be able to say "what you're giving me now is a gift; now repay what you owe".)
    – msh210
    Nov 21, 2012 at 14:37
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    @msh210 A gift is different from a prior obligation, isn't it?
    – Isaac Moses
    Nov 21, 2012 at 15:03
  • @IsaacMoses, hence "likely".
    – msh210
    Nov 21, 2012 at 16:53
  • I think it would make a difference whether the term of the loan (e.g., 30 days) had already ended, no?
    – Dave
    Nov 21, 2012 at 18:51

1 Answer 1


Seemingly the answer could be inferred from what it says in Choshen Mishpat Siman 58 Sif 4. The Machaber says that if one owes 2 separate debts to someone, the creditor may collect the money from the one who owes the debts and decide which debt he is collecting on. Not only that, says the Machaber: even if the person says he is giving the money to pay back a particular debt, the one collecting it can receive it and remain quiet and later say that the money he received is for a different debt that was owed to him.

Seemingly so, too, in this case. Even though the boss is giving the money for that day's work and to fulfill the din (rule) of paying his workers on time, still the one receiving the money has a right to say he is collecting on a previous debt and that he still wants to be paid for that day's work.

  • Since no other answer has been given and I've gotten a +1 on this I'm inclined to accept my own answer. Is this fair?
    – Yehoshua
    Nov 23, 2012 at 6:37
  • Yes.
    – Isaac Moses
    Nov 23, 2012 at 14:42

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