Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Ribbis Question

An expert in Dinei Mamonus, a Yadin musmach, posed the following question to me.  A son asks his father for a loan.  The father says he will lend him the money, but only on the condition that the son start treating him with respect.  That would mean greeting him civilly, bringing him something to drink when he's thirsty, and so forth.  Is this Ribbis?

(I suspect this was not a theoretical question.  My friend is the Rabbinic/executive/counseling services director of an organization that deals with the sick and the poor, cholei nefesh and cholei haguf, and I think this actually came up.)

The natural reaction is that because the son is already obligated to do these things, it cannot be ribbis.  Ribbis is only when the borrower gives/does something that he is not otherwise obligated to give or do.  The fact that the lender is receiving something is not the problem, the problem is that the borrower is giving something.  Here, he is not giving anything- he is just fufilling his mitzva.   Furthermore, ribbis cannot be worse than the din of a Mudar hana'ah, and just as a mudar hana'ah can blow the shofar for the other person, because he is motivated by the mitzva, not the benefit to the other, here too the son can do his mitzva even though the father benefits.  By the shofar, it is not seen as the tokei'a is giving anything to the other person.  Here too, it should not be seen as if the son is giving anything to his father.

Eli, in the comments, made a  point that I have to anticipate here.  There is a difference between a mudar hearing tekias shofar and a mudar getting a drink of water.  Indeed, the Gemara in Nedarim 38b המדיר בנו לת"ת makes it clear that Neder (of the father) could overrule כבוד או"א, and the hetter for a mudar son to serve his father is only where we assume the father never meant to prohibit minor things, which indicates that a father's issur hana'ah would preclude the son from serving him.    This, however, is not germane to our question.  In Nedarim, the issue is "Is the father/muddar receiving."  Here, in Ribbis, the issue is not whether the father/lender received.  The issue is whether the son/borrower is giving.  The fact that the father is receiving, or has hanaas haguf, is not relevant.  As long as the son is considered to be giving something to the father because of the loan, it might be assur.  To that, we said that the natural inclination is to say that a son that is merely fulfilling his Torah mitzva of Kibbud cannot be said to be "giving," irrespective of the fact that he would not have fulfilled his Torah obligation if not for the terms of the loan.

(Although the Torah puts lavin on the lender, that doesn't mean that the din of ribbis is created simply by his receipt of a benefit from the borrower.  The din of ribbis is created when the borrower gives.  When the borrower gives due to the loan, and the lender receives, the lender is over on three lahvin.)

The complication is the Ran in Rosh Hashanna.  The Ran (7b of the Rif) says that even though a muddar can blow shofar, that is only when he does the tekiah of his own volition.  But if the other asks him to blow and be motzi him, it's assur.

The Ran:
ומיהו מסתברא לי דכי אמרינן מותר לתקוע לו דוקא כגון שהוא תוקע מאליו להוציא המודר הנאה אבל כל שאמר ליה המודר תקע לי והוציאני אסור דשליחותו קא עביד וראיה לדבר מדאמרי' בפרק אין בין המודר כו' ואמרינן נמי אלא לדעתיה דבעל הא קא מהני ליה דקא עביד שליחותיה אלמא כל היכא דעביד שליחותיה אסור 

The Ran is brought in the Beis Yosef in 589 without any other opinions.  But the Shaar HaMelech 1 Shofar 3 shows that this is really a machlokes rishonim that is brought elsewhere in the Beis Yosef, and he doesn't understand why the Beis Yosef doesn't mention it in 589.

ולע"ד דבר זה נראה שבמחלוקת הוא שנוי והוא שהטור ז"ל חי"ד סימן רכ"ח גבי ההיא דקי"ל המודר הנאה מחבירו מלמדו מקרא מדרש כתב וז"ל הילכך אפילו אם הנאסר אומר לו שילמדנו מותר והרמב"ן ז"ל כתב שאם הנאסר אומר לו שילמדנו שאז הוא כשלוחו ואינו מותר אלא אם כן ילמדנו הוא עצמו וא"א הרא"ש כתב כסברה הראשונה עכ"ד ומבואר מדברי מרן ז"ל דה"ט דהרא"ש ז"ל דע"כ לא אמרינן בגמרא דלמעבד שליחותיה אסור היינו דוקא בדבר שצריך דעת ושליחות כגון תרומה וקרבן אבל מחזיר אבידתו ומלמדו מדרש כיון דאין צריך דעת ושליחות אפי' אם מצוה לעשות מותר כו' יע"ש ואם כן מינה נשמע גבי שופר כיון דאין צריך דעת ושליחות אפילו באומר לו תקע והוציאני מותר לדעת הרא"ש ז"ל ויש לי מן התימה קצת על מור"ם ז"ל בהג"ה דבי"ד סי' הנז' ס"ב על מה שפסק מרן שם כדעת הרמב"ן כתב ויש חולקים ומתירין אפילו אומר לו שילמדנו כו' יע"ש ואילו כאן בסי' תקפ"ט פסק מרן דברי הר"ן ז"ל ולא הגיה עליו כלום וצ"ע 

So, assuming that ribbis is similar to mudar hana'ah, there might be a problem.


  1. Shofar is not a good example, מצוות לאו להנות ניתנו, while here you talk about hanaas haguf, like maayan bimos hachama.

    See also Nedarim 38b המדיר בנו לת"ת where it is clear that Neder (of the father) could overrule כבוד או"א

    1. I am assuming that the issur of Ribbis is for the borrower to give, irrespective of whether the lender receives. Therefore, hanaas haguf on the part of the father is not germane. (While the Torah enumerates separate issurim on the lender, that does not mean that his taking is an issur per se. It means that where the borrower is giving, there are issurim for the lender to take.)

      The Gemara in Nedarim is very helpful. However, there too, the issur is for the father to benefit from the son, and so your first distinction would apply. In my case, the problem is for the son/borrower to give, not for the father/lender to take.

  2. I only referred to "ribbis cannot be worse than the din of a Mudar hana'ah". Whether such cases would be considered giving ribis could indeed be a separate question