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An Interesting Question - Two Interesting Answers

The late great Rav Shlomo Kluger [one of the most prolific authors in Jewish history] offered a tremendously novel explanation with which one could definitely argue. He says that if one loans his fellow money with interest under the threat of personal extinction and this threat no longer exists when the time for payment comes around, it is still permitted to collect the interest! This is because the Torah only forbade one to collect interest when the prohibition applied from beginning to end. But in our case when the loan was originally given the stipulation that interest would be paid was halachically sanctioned due to the threat upon the lenders life.

So that is what the Shulchan Aruch meant by saying that Ribbis is permitted in a case of pikuach nefesh. Not only if the pikuach nefesh existed all the way through [for we would know on our own that in such a case one would be allowed to collect as one is allowed to do just about any sin to save his life] but even if at the time of payment there was no longer pikuach nefesh.

Rav Shammai Gross Shlita [the Dayan of the Belzer Chasidim] suggested a different answer. Chazal compare one who lends money with interest to one who denies the existence of G-d [!]. So one might have throught that this sin is an accessory ["avizraihu"] to the sin of idolatry and therefore a person is required to give up his life rather than transgress. That is why the Shulchan Aruch had to tell us that notwithstanding the seriousness of the transgression it is neverthless permitted in a case of pikuach nefesh.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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