Selected Halachos relating to Parshas Behar
By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt
The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
Do not take from him interest and increase (Lev. 25:36)
EVERYDAY CASES INVOLVING INTEREST
Although the Biblical prohibition against charging interest
(ribbis) on a loan is well-known, few people are aware of the
many applications and ramifications of the laws of interest.
Transgressing these laws could result in the violation of up to
six negative commandments according to the Rambam (1), so it is
imperative that we examine some everyday situations where the
laws of interest apply.
SOME FORBIDDEN FORMS OF BORROWING:
A loan may not be made with conditions which will benefit the
lender. He may not stipulate that in exchange for the loan, the
borrower should patronize him, refer others to his or another
person's business (2), be given a job (3) or make a donation to
tzedakah (4). It is permitted, however, to lend money with the
stipulation that the borrower will accept a job offer or take
a course, etc., if the lender's aim is solely to benefit the
borrower or to ensure that his loan will be repaid (5).
It is forbidden to lend money to a handyman on condition that
he will work for the lender at a lower wage (6).
It is forbidden to borrow another person's credit card to make
a purchase on which the borrower makes monthly payments with
interest. Similarly, it is forbidden to borrow another
person's credit card to obtain a cash advance. These
transactions are forbidden because legally, the owner of the
card is responsible for the payments. In effect, it is as if the
borrower is borrowing money from the credit card owner and then
repaying him the principal plus interest (7).
It is permitted to borrow another person's credit card (when no
interest is paid) even though the credit card owner benefits
from the borrower's purchase by earning mileage, etc. (8).
It is forbidden to lend money on condition that the borrower
will--at a later date--lend the lender money for a longer
period of time or for a larger amount of money than the
present loan entails. It is debatable if the lender can make
that type of condition if the terms will be the same as those of
the present loan (9).
It is forbidden to charge extra money for a post-dated check,
since the person issuing the check is actually paying interest
for the privilege of delaying payment.
A form of ribbis of which many people are not aware of is the
case of two people agreeing to an uneven exchange of jobs or
chores. For instance, a teacher may not say to a colleague, "I
will teach your period if you will teach mine"--if the two
periods being exchanged are not exactly equal, both in the
length of time and in the difficulty of work entailed (10).
Similarly, one may not say to his friend, "I will paint your
house if you will paint mine," if the two houses are not exactly
even in size and in the amount of work involved (11).
It is forbidden to tell someone, "Have a meal with me, since I
ate at your house last week". This appears to be payment of
debt, and since one might give his friend a more elaborate meal
than the meal he received, it may be perceived as ribbis. Some
poskim (12), however, permit saying, "Come to my house for lunch,
and I'll eat lunch at your house next week", while other poskim
prohibit this as well (13).
NOTE: It is important to remember that in many of the cases in which it is prohibited to charge interest, a heter iska (partnership agreement) can be drawn up by a competent rabbinic authority which allows the transaction to be carried out in a halachically permissible manner.
SOME FORBIDDEN FORMS OF REPAYMENT:
The prohibition of ribbis is not limited to monetary payments.
A favor or a benefit of any sort which the lender receives from
the borrower may fall into the category of interest. There are
several basic rules which govern the extent of this
SOME APPLICATIONS OF THESE RULES:
- A borrower may not extend a favor to a lender just because he got a loan from him. If the borrower would not have done the favor otherwise, it is forbidden to do the favor;
- The borrower may not do a favor for the lender in public even if he would have done the favor regardless of the loan;
- When the relationship between a borrower and a lender is long established and the borrower has previously granted public favors to the lender, such a relationship may continue even after a loan takes place.
A borrower may not praise (14) or bless (15) a lender for lending
him money or for extending a payment deadline. Some poskim even
prohibit saying a simple thank-you (16), while others allow a
simple thank-you (17).
A borrower may not buy a lender an aliyah in appreciation of a
A borrower may not send Mishloach Manos to a lender (19), tutor a
lender or his child in the study of Torah without
compensation (20), offer him charity (21), sell him goods or offer
a service below market price, (22) or buy goods from him or pay
him for a service above market value (23), unless he would have
done so regardless of the loan.
A borrower may invite a lender to a wedding even if he would not
have invited him were it not for the loan (24).
Institutions, e.g., yeshivos, shuls, etc. may honor an
individual who has loaned them money provided that the honor was
not a condition for granting the loan (25).
It is permitted for a borrower to give a wedding gift to the son
or daughter of a lender (26), even if he would not have given a
gift were it not for the loan. The gift must be an item which
the groom's/bride's father would not normally purchase for his
A borrower may extend to a lender a common courtesy, such as
changing money for him. A lender, though, may not (strongly)
request a favor from a borrower, even if it is merely a common
Note: All non-financial benefits and favors are only prohibited
while a loan is outstanding. Once a loan is repaid, this type of
ribbis prohibition no longer applies (29).
1 Hilchos Malveh V'loveh 4:2. See also Sefer Hamitzvos (Shoresh
2 YD 160:23; Igros Moshe YD 3 Hilchos Ribbis 160:18.
3 Shulchan Aruch Harav 14.
4 Rama YD 160:14 (concerning hekdesh). R' Akiva Eiger adds that
it is also prohibited to say, "I will lend you 100 if you will
return 102 to hekdesh".
5 Questions of Interest pg. 45.
6 Shach YD 160:37.
7 Mishnas Ribbis 17:7 based on YD 168:17. See also Igros Moshe
YD 3:42. Sometimes, the borrower promises to make payments
within the grace period and then fails to honor his commitment,
leaving the credit card owner with the interest payments. See
Mishnas Ribbis who discusses several ways where the lender may
be compensated in this case.
8 Since the points are awardwd by credit card company, not by
9 Rama YD 160:9.
10 If, however, the work itself is comparable but the wages are
not (for reasons of seniority, etc.) they are permitted to
switch--Toras Ribbis pg. 227.
11 YD 160:9. Partners, however, may divide their work in any way
they choose and exchange their obligations at any time--Chasam
Sofer YD 135.
12 Rama OC 170; Aruch Hashulchan OC 170:14.
13 Taz quoted by Mishnah Berurah 170:32.
14 Nor may he greet him in a warmer or more gracious manner then
he had previously greeted him--YD 160:11.
15 Even expressions like yeyashar kochachem or tizku l'mitzvos
are questionable--see Birkei Yosef 160:12 and Bris Yehudah
16 Igros Moshe YD 1:80. A possible solution is to thank him for
his effort in making the loan.
17 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 27); Harav S.Y. Elyashiv
(Mishnas Ribbis 4 fn. 21); Harav Yechezkel Roth (Questions of
Interest pg. 61).
18 Shach YD 166:1.
19 Mishnas Ribbis 3 fn. 18.
20 YD 160:10.
21 Shulchan Aruch Harav 14.
22 Shach 160:37.
23 Shach 173:6.
24 Harav Yechezkel Roth and other poskim quoted in Questions of
Interest (pg. 57). Several reasons are given:
25 Based on YD 160:18.
- The invitation is in recognition of their present social friendship, not an expression of appreciation.
- A wedding invitation is not a public honor.
- A wedding host considers the food as a gift to his guests.
26 A Bar/Bas Mitzvah gift may be given only after the child's birthday has passed, since prior to his birthday, the item will belong to the father, who is the lender.
27 Bris Yehudah pg. 227.
28 YD 160:12, Shulchan Aruch Harav 10. See Darkei Teshuvah 80 and Bris Yehudah 11:14.
29 Birkei Yosef YD 160:11. See Yabia Omer YD 4:9.
Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and
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