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Ribbis: Matters of Interest


May a person do favors for someone he owes money to? For example, Reuven, who owes Shimon money, was in a sefarim store and saw a sefer Shimon always wanted. May he do him a favor and buy the sefer? What if they always exchange favors? What if they became friends through the loan process?

A teacher lent money to a student for a taxi ride home. May the student chip in to buy the teacher a Chanukah present while the loan is outstanding?

Many people will assume that these questions, or those that follow, do not apply to them since they don’t owe any serious money to anybody. However, this is a mistake.

As explained in the overview, aside from borrowing money or commodities, the status of a “borrower” in halachah can be achieved in many ways. Purchasing merchandise on credit falls into this category. Until the buyer pays his bill he is considered a “borrower,” and the seller, a “lender.” Similarly, after workers complete a project or a repair, the employer is considered a “borrower” and the employees “lenders,” as the job has ended and the wage payment is outstanding. Owing money for tuition is also considered borrowing.

When such titles are conferred, the laws of ribbis will apply in some form or another.

One important ribbis restriction is that the borrower may not benefit the lender in connection to the loan. Offering favors is viewed as overpayment, and therefore a form of ribbis. This is forbidden between friends just as between strangers, rich or poor.

However there are certain laws related to extending favors which are sometimes relaxed between friends, depending on the level of friendship. People may know each other, but are not necessarily considered friends. The parties must determine the level of friendship before extending or requesting favors.

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