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Secular Law Enforcement of the Heter 'Iska
Kenneth H. Ryesky, Esq.

II. The Legal Concept of Interest:

Lest the obvious be overlooked, it must be noted that the American legal system is not grounded in the immutable Torah values of halacha. Though the Torah and the Jewish people have no doubt had a salutary influence upon the law as it exists in America, the American system does not and cannot consistently render judgrnents that comport in all respects with Torah values. Though the American system of government is not necessarily unrighteous, 9 its courts' rulings do not necessarily correlate with Torah principles and values. That is not to say that the American secular legal system necessarily abhors Torah principles and values. To the contrary, there are numerous instances where the secular law accommodates and defers to halacha, both in the prescribed statutes10 and in the court decisions.11 Nonetheless, it cannot be overemphasized that the secular system is not driven by the halacha objective, and can produce results which would be impossible under halacha.

American secular law does not view interest from a halachic perspective. Civil usury laws are couched in terms of permissible rates of interest, 12 in contrast to the Torah's general prohibition against the charging of interest. 13 Interest as a compensation for the use, forbearance or detention of money is omnipresent throughout American secular law.14

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