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Why does the prohibition against lending with interest only apply between Jews?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


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There is nothing wrong or unethical about lending with interest. It is a common practice which is done in all civilized law-abiding societies.

Still, the Torah expects of us to treat all our fellow Jews as family--and when a family-member asks for a loan we don't charge interest. As the verse says (Deuteronomy 23:20), "You shall not cause your brother to take interest."

Since, according to Halachah (Jewish law), one must follow the "law of the land," any civil law forbidding unreasonable usury would be Halachically binding -- whether the borrower is Jewish or not.

TAGS: interest, usury


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Law of the Land

Posted by: Steven Markowitz, Houston, TX on Jul 26, 2005

So, in the USA I do not have to stay Kosher since it is not the law of the land?

Even though I am Jewish.

Editor's Comment

This rule only applies to civil matters, and only when civil law doesn't contradict Torah law. For example, it is forbidden by Torah law to cheat on ones taxes. But if the legislature decided that it was permitted to steal, or if they decided to ban wearing tefillin, such laws would not be binding for a Jew.

Law of the Land - Part 2

Posted by: Steven Markowitz, Houston, TX on Jul 26, 2005

1. Then is it correct to say that no Jew no matter where he lives can charge another Jew Interest for any reason?

2. Are you sure it only applies to lending to a Jew? I thought that being Jewish meant that you should not charge anyone interest whether they are Jewish or Not, in other words our responsibility is to help all people on earth and when you lend money it is usually to help them.

If we are going to be the example for all mankind (Or the Light to all Nations) then why would good intentions or rules not apply to all people?

Editor's Comment

1. Correct. 2. Perhaps store keepers should also sell products to all customers at cost... There's nothing inherently wrong with lending with interest. Just as I am permitted to rent my car or house to you, I should also be able to do so with my money. However, the Torah says that we must do a special favor for another Jew by lending him interest free. We are meant to be an example to the nations by behaving properly and being honest on our business dealings. This does not include a requirement to lend everyone money without interest.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Jewish Law. All halachah which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.
According to Jewish law.
The fifth of the Five Books of Moses. This book is a record of the monologue which Moses spoke to the Israelites in the five weeks prior to his passing.