Dealing with Forbidden Goods
1. A person naturally desires and craves money. In particular, it is more
likely that a person will succumb and violate the prohibition against
taking interest than other prohibitions involving financial matters. With
regard to theft, deception, and the like, a person naturally takes
precautions to see that no one steal from him or cheat him. [Accordingly,
he will hold himself back from acting in this manner towards a colleague.]
Furthermore, even a person who desires to steal from or cheat a colleague
will often hesitate to do so out of shame or out of fear of detection.
In contrast, concerning interest, the borrower pays the money willingly and
is happy that he has found a loan, even though it requires paying interest.
Indeed, the lender can rationalize that he is doing the borrower a great
favor. With this money, the borrower can earn many times more than the
amount of interest which he has to pay. Therefore, it is very easy for a
person to succumb to temptation and violate this prohibition.
For the above reasons, our holy Torah regards to this prohibition very
severely, mentioning it several times. A person who lends money at interest
violates six Torah prohibitions. He will not arise at the resurrection of
the dead, as [Ezekiel 18:13] states: "He gave [money] at interest and took
an increase - shall he live? He shall not live."
A person who borrows at interest also violates three Torah prohibitions.
The scribe [who writes the contract of loan], the witnesses to it, and the
guarantor each violate one prohibition. Similarly, a broker and anyone else
who helped arrange the loan - e.g., a person who informed the borrower of a
potential lender or one who informed the lender of a potential borrower -
also violate a prohibition.
2. A person who succumbed to temptation and took interest is obligated to
return it (unless the interest was given prior to the loan or after the
loan, as explained in Law 6).
3. Interest need not be agreed upon at the time a loan is originally given.
Even when: a loan was given without charge until a specific time; one sold
merchandise and deferred payment until a specific time; or one was
obligated to pay a colleague for any particular reason, and, when the time
for payment came, the creditor extended the loan in return for
compensation, - these considerations are also regarded as interest.