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Mishpatim: Rav Hirsch: Mitzvah 74 – Concept 536

“When you lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you, do not act toward him as a creditor. Do not lay interest upon him.” (Exodus 22:24) We may not intermediate in an interest loan, guarantee, witness, nor write the promissory note. (Rambam, Hilchot Malveh V’Loveh – The Laws of Creditor and Debtor)

The first half of the verse, addressed to the lender, who actually is an individual, is in the singular person, but here the verse addresses the community. You, the Jewish community should not impose interest on borrowers. The verse does not consider this law of interest from the point of view that there is anything intrinsically wrong in interest itself. The issue is how it goes against the principle of Jewish Communal life.

If the lender were to be allowed to consider himself as one who, completely out of his own good will, places the use of his money for a certain time, at the disposal of somebody else, he should be allowed to take payment for the temporary loss of his money, or the use of it.

But this is exactly what he may not do. It is neither entirely his own money that he is lending, nor is the decision to lend it a matter of his goodwill. His money is to be regarded as belonging also to God, to lend it is a duty, and the borrower is not simply an individual, he is “My nation<” and integral member of the community which God wants to build up by the power of duty. Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch

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