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February 4, 2013 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Mishpatim

The prohibits one Jew from charging another interest- but does not extend this prohibition to non-Jews. (Exodus 22:24).

Sarna points out that for many centuries, Israelite society was composed of “peasants in villages operating in an agrarian economy.”   For these subsistence farmers, the need for a loan “would be occasioned not by business and commerce but by dire poverty.”   It logically follows that taking interest would make the already poor person even poorer.

And because someone who can’t pay his debts might be enslaved, the taking of interest, by making it harder for someone to pay those debts,  might lead to slavery as a remedy for impoverishment.  Thus, the no-interest rule is aimed at protecting the “desperate poor.”

So how are foreigners different?  A foreigner in Israel is more likely to be a traveling trader,who (a) is more likely than a peasant to skip town and not repay his debts and (b) probably is borrowing money for commercial purposes rather than due to poverty.  So it makes more sense to charge such a trader interest.

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