Jews and Dues

September 14, 2016 at 8:13 PM , , ,

“….You may offer interest to a gentile, but to your brother you shall not offer interest….” (Devarim 23:21)

לנכרי תשיך ולאחיך לא תשיך – דברים כג, כא

Offering – and taking – interest from “your brother” is prohibited; from people at large, by contrast, it is permitted. It is a positive mitzvah to lend money to a gentile at interest, as (Devarim 23:21) states: “You may offer interest to a gentile.” —Rambam, Malveh ViLoveh 5:1

Parashat Ki Teitzei

There is nothing inherently immoral about collecting interest on a loan. In fact, the Torah permits collecting interest from a non-Jew. After all, the borrower willingly accepted to pay this fee, in order to reimburse his creditor for the use and opportunities he forfeited while waiting for the loan to be repaid. But why does the Rambam say that it is a Positive Mitzvah to expressly collect interest from a gentile? Can’t the Jewish lender waive the interest charges if he so desires?

The Baal Shem Tov taught that money belonging to a Jew contains “sparks of holiness”. The extraction and return of these sparks to kedusha lies particularly on the person to whose possession this money has been placed by Divine Providence. Now, the very nature of money – as created by G-d – is that it can spontaneously generate more money if given as a loan. It follows that the elevation of money that could potentially be collected through interest, relies for its elevation on the Jew to whom the principle belongs. Thus, interest too is included in the Mishna’s injunction that “all your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven (Avos 2:12)” and you must recognize and “know Him in all your ways (Mishlei 3:6)”. However, if the money was lent to a Jew, the Torah prohibits collecting such interest. In such an instance, our interaction with the collectible interest must be the same as with all other benefits that are prohibited to a Jew – the Jew’s restraint from them is what elevates them.

When lending to a gentile, however, the prohibitive limitation on collecting interest is removed. Once permissible, it automatically becomes truly collectible and its collection is therefore obligatory! For once it has becomes accessible and permissible, it becomes our duty to elevate it to the best of our abilities.


—Likutei Sichos, vol. 12, pp. 118-119

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