Let's say that a person is rightfully owed a sum of money, and the debtor refuses to pay them. Can they threaten to take the person to Beis Din or a secular court, even if they have no intention of actually following through, if this is the only way they have to get their money?

2 Answers 2


The Gemara in Bava Kamma discusses a guy who gave his shor to a shomer to watch, and it gored while the shomer has it, and the shomer hands it over to pay for the damage caused (because shor tam meshalem migufo). The owner says that the shomer owes him for the loss of his shor, and eventually the claim the Gemara comes onto for the shomer is that had the owner had it, he would have hidden it in a swamp so that they couldn't have taken it. Tosefos is bothered that how could he have any rights based on that he could have stolen! Rather, he would have said that he was going to hide it in the swamp, even though really he wouldn't.

So it looks like you can make a claim which you don't plan to carry out, at least if it is the way in which you are able to defend your property.

  • Do you have a source by any chance?
    – fartgeek
    Feb 18, 2023 at 23:55

Please consider what I write as material to discuss with your rav. This is a complex issue...

The debtor MAY have committed a host of sins by not paying you; or he may not have committed any, such as if he became too poor to pay you. You didn't specify all the conditions of the sale terms as well as the debtor's conditions.

Regardless, threatening to sue someone when you don't mean it is problematic in several areas. Among them is the violation of "Ona'at Devarim" - I.e. - you MAY be using words that hurt another (depends much on what you say and your mannerism in the threat). It may also be a form of genevat da'at, as you are definitely misleading someone - you THREATEN to sue, but in your own mind, you don't intend to do this. It may also be a case of "lifnei iver" - placing a stumbling block before the blind, because your threat may cause him to countersue or prepare a defense causing him to get a lawyer, pay fees to defend himself, etc. - and you never intended to sue in the first place!

The above list is just a few violations among others that may be there. Best ideas - work out another way, forgive the debt (the money ain't yours in the first place. It's G-d's money! Consider it a "kapparah" as well as a lesson not to lend this person again under same circumstances! I know - it's hard to do, but think about it ... you may be much happier at the end, anyway.) Or, you could take the case to Bet Din and, perhaps, as a last (or first) option don't threaten to sue. If you feel you have to, DO IT for real - preferably in Bet Din rather than a secular court.

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    I'm not sure that second to last paragraph is true. I know that in certain circumstances, if a person is being wronged by someone else, they ARE allowed to lie to get what is rightfully theirs. For example, if a contractor demands a higher price for his work halfway through a job, you are allowed to agree to it and then only pay the original price halfway through. In this case too, one might be allowed to say certain things (especially threatening to sue, which he is could do if he wanted) to get what is rightfully his. Oct 24, 2014 at 18:10

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