Monday, July 06, 2009

Interest-Free Loans

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The Gemora quotes a different version of Rav Huna’s statement. Rav Yosef explained that the verse discussing lending states: if you will lend money to Ami – my nation, to the Ani – the poor one – Imach – with you. This verse teaches that the priority in lending is first to a Jew over a non Jew (Ami), then to a poor person over a rich person (Ani), and to a local poor person over a poor person somewhere else (Imach). Rav Huna says that the priority given to a Jewish debtor is even when the non Jewish debtor will pay interest.

The Pnei Yehoshua discusses what the halachah would be in a case where if he would lend money with interest to a gentile, he would gain substantially. Is he still required to lend to a Jew without interest?

He questions the basis of the halachah: Do we not say that whenever a person would suffer a loss, his needs take precedence over others?

He answers that it is different here, for the mitzvah to lend to a poor person is a mitzvah of tzedakah; one is required to do whatever is in his means in order to sustain his fellow Jew. One must be concerned about his own losses only when the mitzvah regarding his fellow is to prevent him from a loss.

The Megilas Esther writes that one is obligated to lend to a Jew interest-free even if he has the possibility of lending to a gentile for a substantial amount of interest. This is because the Jew is not losing; he is merely not gaining.

The Shaar Hamishpat disagrees with this, and Ahavas Chesed cites several different opinions with respect to this issue.