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Thought for the Day: Lending Money to a Goy, Collecting from a Jew

Suppose you lend money to Bob.  After some time, Bob (perhaps because of his dealings with you) decides that the Torah is true and that he wants to join the club.  Bob become Reuvein.  Mazal Tov!  We now have an interesting situation.  The loan to Bob was interest bearing, of course, since loans to goyim must be interest bearing.  However, you are not allowed to collect interest from Reuvein.  In fact, Reuvein is also not allowed to pay you interest.  That's d'oraisa.  Big stuff.

This is not my crazy question.  For a long time it was my chavrusa's crazy question that I kept trotting out and trying to get some clarification whenever I found someone I thought might know.  I finally was told, "It'a gemara.  Bava Metzia 72a.  See the Rosh there; amazing!"  Again, it's not what you know, it's who you know.  Being persistent helps also.  (I get called other names besides "persistent"; but this is a family post.)  So not it is not my crazy question, it is not even my chavrusa's crazy question; in fact, it's not crazy at all.  It's a Chazal.  So that means that Moshe Rabeinu had this question and discussed it directly with the Author of Creation Himself.

I will let you read the gemara; the bottom line, however is that (the way the Rosh learns the gemara and the way we pasken) even after Bob becomes Reuvein, he must pay the interest on the loan.  Why?  In order to ensure there is no suspicion he converted simply to get out of paying the interest.  Now, I can tell you from personal experience that getting out paying the interest on a loan is not much a motivating factor given what conversion entails.  I also imagine that most of you know a ger or two.  How suspicious are you of their motives?  Right.  But Chazal with the vast and deep understanding of human nature felt this was enough of a worry to justify this decree.

Now here's the really cool part.  The Rosh concludes that even though the payment of interest for a loan between two Jews is an issur d'oraisa, Chazal have the power to uproot (the Rosh's words, not mine) an issur from the Torah.  No one argue this last point of the Rosh; no one.  Even more, the commentators work hard to explain why this kind of interest is an issur d'oraisa at all!  That is, they all take as a matter of fact that Chazal have that power, they are only interested in how this example demonstrates that power.

Whether you liked the question at first or not, this powerful and far reaching principle is certainly fascinating, relevant, and important.  And that, of course is the purpose of crazy cases -- to highlight and even showcase these beautiful and fundamental concepts.


Josh said…
Great post as usual.

I unfortunately know gerim, at least one was a close friend, who were frum after being migayer for a period of time and then went off the derech. A learned person who knew my friend was misupek if he really was Jewish. I asked a Rav of a Beis Din about this phenomena. It's a special Beis Dn which travels across the States being migayer goyim in smaller places that don't have a Beis Din. I asked this Rav if the geirus can be considered null if the person throws off Torah and Mitzvos after the fact. He said that the Av Beis Din looks to see whether the ger kept his first Shabbos. If so, the geirus stands. Otherwise, it shows that the person wasn't serious in the first place and he's not Jewish.

It unfortunately goes to show that some people have ulterior motives for geirus that do come out very, very quickly after the fact.

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