[Avodah] Interest and modern economies

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Tue Jun 4 13:12:58 PDT 2024

On Sun, May 19, 2024 at 10:55:07AM +0300, Marty Bluke wrote:
> Dad Yomi recently learned the 5th perek of Bava Metzia which deals with
> interest and the gemara stresses the severity of the prohibition of taking
> interest. It is so severe that one who violates the prohibition is like a
> kofer bakol and will lose all their money.

On Wed, May 22, 2024 at 09:38:48AM -0400, mcohen replied:
> i would have thought that the prohibition on interest is a localized
> interpersonal Jew to Jew concept only.
> one doesnt lend to his brother with interest.

This is exactly how the pasuq describes it: "Ki yamukh *achikha*"
(Bamidbar 25:35, setting the context for "al tiqakh miyado neshekh
vesarbis" in the next pasuq).

Ore than that, I would say this is why the gemara calls a person who
charges ribis tantamount to being a kofer. Like the Rambam says (Teshuvah
3:6), "And these are the ones who have no cheileq le'olam haba ... and
those who are poreshin midarkhei tzibbur..."

Not feeling famlial ties to the rest of the Jewish People is a kind of
kefirah. As we will read next week in Megillas Rus, to become a Jew,
Rus declares, "ameikh ami, ve-Elokayikh Elokai." Similarly, our doxology
begins "Shema Yisrael"; someone who believes "Hashem Elokeinu Hashem
Echad" but not as part of Yisrael didn't buy in to Yahadus.

There is also a bein adam laMaqom aspect to it. What does breaking
halakhah out of some belief that charging ribis would bring financial
stability say about that person's Bitachon?

Back to RMB's original post:
>          I understand that there are workarounds but those raise a larger
> question. If taking interest makes you a kofer then surely circumventing
> the prohibition through technical means is not what the Torah wants. So how
> can we have a modern economy Al pi Torah given the prohibition on interest?

And RMC replied:
> i would think a torah nation and economy would operate with interest
> from banks to LLCs on a corporate level (based on RMF's heter to lend
> money to an LLC with ribbis)

IM YD 2:63. I don't see this as a circumvention of the prohibition. I
can't cut my brother's corporation slack in situations where I would do
so for my brother directly. There is no pegam in Jewish achdus in this

And quite the reverse... Allowing his corporation to exist as a vehicle
to feed his family is quite brotherly. Even though it requires conducting
"business as usual" -- including ribis. It is, after all, your brother's

And I think the cholqim agree with RMF on the "tamamei diqra", they merely
draw the line of being too unbrotherly in a different place. (Minchas
Yitzchaq 1:3m 4:16; Minchas Shelomo 28; and I am sure there are others
my notes aren't aware of.) Rather, they don't hold "business is business"
until you use a heter isqa with the corporate entity.

And this would explain all the machloqesin about heter isqa. There is
a tension between the coldness of usary and the warmth of supporting a
family member's business. And posqim see reasons to strike the balance
in different places. E.g. If you have a H"I with an individual that even
allows you to make profit that matches compounded interest, is that
still brotherly? Or is it only a fixed-rate ribis that is friendly in
business dealings?

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 Today is the 42nd day, which is
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   6 weeks in/toward the omer.
Author: Widen Your Tent      Malchus sheb'Yesod: Why is self-control and
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF     reliability crucial for universal brotherhood?

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