Monthly Archives: September 2014

Parshat כי תצא Devarim 23:21 – Lending to Non Jews with Interest

Deuteronomy 23:21 “Unto a foreigner thou mayest lend upon interest; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon interest; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou puttest thy hand unto, in the land whither thou goest in to possess it. {S}”

Sifrei: Unto a foreigner thou mayest lend upon interest is a positive commandment. But unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon interest is a prohibition

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #108.

According to Maimonides in chapter 5, halacha 1 of the laws of lending, this is an explicit positive commandment as he explains the language of the verse in Parashat Reeh: “Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it; but whatsoever of thine is with thy brother thy hand shall release.[1]“.  According to the Raavad and other Rishonim, this commandment comes to add another positive commandment for a Jew who lends with interest aside from the prohibition of lending without  interest..  The verse uses similar language with respect to kosher birds “any pure bird you shall eat”, whose main idea is to underscore the prohibition of eating unclean birds.  There are similar example expressed in this language.

One can bring support to Maimonides position from the sections of the gemara (Bava Metziah 71a) which expound on the verse: “If thou lend money to any of My people, even to the poor with thee, thou shalt not be to him as a creditor; neither shall ye lay upon him interest.[2]”  When one has a choice between lending to a Jew or lending to non Jew, lending to a Jew takes precedence.  The gemara asks: is it not intuitive that lending to Jew takes precedence?  It answers even when you could profit by lending to a non Jew with interest or interest free to a Jew, lending to a Jew takes precedence.  This is truly astonishing.  Is it possible that when one wants to make a profit with one’s money we tell him not to make a profit rather to give the money benevolently?  That is when he wants to loan to a non Jew with interest, we tell him that it is better to give it benevolently.  We find no such mitzvah.  Thus the position of Maimonides makes sense.  When one wants to fulfill the commandment of lending with interest to a non Jew and lending without interest to a Jew at the same time, the verse teaches that lending to a Jew takes precedence over lending with interest to a non Jew.  Take note.

According to Maimonides, do not be astonished why the Torah commands one to lend with interest to non Jews, as many of the oppressors of Israel and its Talmud have murmured   For when the Children of Israel went forth from Egypt to receive the Torah, they were a lone nation.  The agreed amongst each other to act benevolently one to another with money and commodities.  This is the intent of the commandment not loan another Jew with interest: you don’t charge your fellow Jew interest and he won’t reciprocate.  Regarding the other nations, however, who lend to Jews with interest, it is appropriate that the Jews also lend to them with interest. This is like a group of partners who agree not to charge each other interest, but to others they will charge interest.  This occurs every day in every nation where different groups form for different financial matters, providing rules and perks for its members,, but not for outsiders.  In any case, it becomes clear that lending to non Jews with interest is a commandment based on the principles of maintaining social order and human society.  As such, all that the murmurs claim is foolishness and striving for naught.[3]  The Torah, truth and peace is its seal.

Editor’s note: The Torah Temimah was a banker by day.  Wearing his financial hat, he eloquently defends lending to non Jews with interest.  Although the Torah permits one, or according to Maimonides commands one, to lend to non Jews with interest, a Jew must abide by the local laws and lending practices. because a Jew must also abide by the law of the land[4].


[1] Deuteronomy 15:3

[2] Exodus 22:24

[3] Ecclesiastes 2:17

[4] Dina d’malchuta dina – the law of the land is law.