Interest In Favors

Question

  1. Zevulun lent Yissochor $10,000. He now wishes to borrow some books
    from Yissochor. Does receiving such a favour from the borrower raise a
    problem of ribbis (forbidden interest)?

  2. Zevulun has often borrowed
    Yissochor’s drill in the past. Today he needs the drill urgently. He
    knocks at Yissochor’s door and one of the children answers. Zevulun
    spots the drill resting in its usual position. May he take the drill
    without receiving the owner’s express permission, relying on the fact
    that Yissochor always lends him the drill when he asks for it?

  3. Yissochor owns a holiday
    apartment in Tzefas. He has no intention of using it during the coming
    month. May he offer Zevulun the free use of the apartment for a weekend
    during this month? Would it make any difference if Zevulun has an
    equivalent holiday home of his own?

Answer

The Shulchan Oruch (Yoreh De’ah
160:7) rules that a lender must refrain from taking any favour from the
borrower without his knowledge as long as the loan is in operation, even
if he was used to receiving such favors before he lent him the money. The Shach
(No. 7) explains that we are concerned that giving the loan boosted the
lender’s confidence and now allows him to borrow the borrower’s
property without fear of objection. A loan-connected benefit to the lender
constitutes a form of ribbis. (According to the Shulchan Oruch
Horav
[Hilchos Ribbis No.12], if the lender had borrowed
without asking permission in the past, he may continue to do so even after
having given the loan. The Prishah
[160:12] disagrees, arguing that it still looks as if this special favour
is prompted by the loan.)

However, continues the Shulchan Oruch, he
may accept such favors with the borrower’s knowledge, as long as he was
accustomed to receiving this type of benefit before the loan. This means
that he may borrow his hammer, even though he hitherto only borrowed his
screwdriver, since they both fall into the same category. However,
borrowing his laptop computer might be problematic if this was the first
time he asked for an item of such value. The Shulchan Oruch Horav (Hilchos
Ribbis
No.11) adds that when the borrower grants permitted favors, he
must ensure that his intention in doing so is not in order to give
something in return for the loan.

The Shulchan Oruch
adds that there is a type of favour which is forbidden, even if the
borrower has granted such favors to the lender in the past. Lending his
house or his servants for free is forbidden, even if he was accustomed to
do so before the loan. The reason is that since these benefits are enjoyed
in the public view, the public will suspect that the borrower only granted
them to the lender on account of the loan. They may not be aware of the
special friendship that exists between borrower and lender (see Shach
166:1 and Shulchan Oruch Horav, as above). A modern equivalent
would be to lend him his car, etc. Indeed, even if the lender derives no
real benefit, since he has a car of his own, this law still applies. In
addition, granting him any public honour would also be prohibited for the
same reason. He could not have him called to the Torah if this involved a
prestigious reading (e.g. shlishi or shishi – the third or
sixth person to be called). He may not honour him by making him mohel
(the circumciser) or sandek (one who holds the baby during the
circumcision), since these are honours which are very much in the public
view (Darkei Teshuvah No.4). A borrower should be grateful to the
lender, but must make sure that he shows it in the permitted manner.