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Ribis: A Halachic Anthology
Rabbi Joseph Stern

Ribis: A Halachic Anthology
Rabbi Joseph Stern

Do not charge interest (Ribis) while lending money or food.
Do not cause your fellow Jew to charge interest (i.e. do not pay interest in return for a loan - a prohibition against the debtor paying interest).

Do not act as an accomplice to the charging of interest (an injunction against even consigning or certifying any usurious financial transaction).

A usurious creditor violates six biblical prohibitions.

Usury - charging interest - is equivalent to atheism.

An entrepreneur who lends money with interest will suffer financial reverses.

The usurer will not experience Resurrection.

The above verses and rabbinic dicta express the issur of Ribis the giving or receiving of any sort of profit for the loan of money or food.

Few committed Jews would deliberately lend (or borrow) money in violation of the injunction against charging interest. And yet some very commonplace business transactions pose serious halahic problems. This article will suggest some contemporary applications of the Ribis principle and discuss proposed remedies for each situation. A second section will focus on the status of banks, corporations, and other organizations that may be exempt from the Ribis prohibition. A third and closing section will discuss the evolution of the Heter Iska (a document structuring a loan as an investment proposal) and its feasibility for modern business exigencies. The purpose of this paper is to explore the parameters of the Ribis laws, rather than to offer authoritative psak. Any halachic verdict must be rendered by competent rabbinic authorities.

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