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Shemitat Kesafim: Status of money given to a parent for safekeeping

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My father is holding onto my little brother's money (he's 14). That is, money he received as a gift: Chanukah gelt, bar mitzvah money, etc. He gave the money to my father so when he asks for money, our father gives him money from this sum and deduct it from the money he gave him. My father is not returning the same bills, but others that amount to the same sum. My father uses my brother's cash for his own purposes.

  1. Is it considered that my father is a borrower? My father doesn't really benefit from the fact that he "borrowed" this money, my brother is the one benefiting from the arrangement.
  2. If so, is it possible for him to give presents to my bother? I know it's forbidden for borrowers to give lenders presents since it's like interest. Here, though, he's giving my brother presents just because he's his son, not because of the loan, which he doesn't really benefit from anyway.
  3. My brother did not write a prozbul. Is the debt canceled and so he won't be able to ask our father for money ("do not press your fellow").
  4. If the loan is canceled and my father wants to return the debt as a gift ("one who returns a loan from the shemitah year, the Sages are pleased with him"), is there a way to do so without physically taking the bills and giving them to him (it's a large sum).

Can he perhaps give him a few bills as a present and then my brother will return them as a loan, and then do it again? Or is this considered that he returned the loan?


Rabbi Yehuda Amichay

Today silver does not back the bills. They are more like a bill of debt, so there is no need for the actual bills when returning a debt. While the money is, indeed, considered a loan, your father can certainly give your brother gifts since it's not related to the loan. Parents generally give gifts to their children. The prohibition for borrowers to give lenders gifts is related to paying back extra. But when it is something customary, an unrelated to the loan, it is possible to give them. This is why it is also permissible to say "thank you" to lenders since this is considered usual. Your father can use the money but needs to return it eventually.

About shemitah: Halachically, this is considered a deposit, pikadon, not a loan. Your brother deposited the money with your father for safekeeping (as a trust). While your father can technically use the money, it is nevertheless not considered a loan rather a deposit. Deposits are not canceled as part of shemitat kesafim, so certainly your father will have to return the sum at your brother's request.