444. Laws of Interest

65:1 It’s natural for a person to desire money, and one is far more likely to justify violating the prohibition against taking interest than he is other financial prohibitions. A person takes care not to be robbed or cheated but willingly enters into a transaction in which he will end up paying interest. Also, most people would be too ashamed to rob or cheat a friend but, when lending money with interest, one feels as if he’s doing the other person a favor. Things such as this make it easy for a person to be tempted into charging interest. For this reason, the Torah is very strict about interest; the lender violates six prohibitions, the borrower violates three prohibitions, and other participants in the transaction – such as the witness, the co-signer, and the one who draws up the loan papers – violate a prohibition each. Even other parties who may have facilitated the transaction, such as the one who referred the lender to the borrower or vice versa, violate a prohibition. A person who lends with interest will not be revived when the dead are resurrected, as per Ezekiel 18:13, “He lent at interest and made a profit – shall he live? He shall not live!”

65:2 One who gave in to temptation and charged interest is obligated to return it. The only exceptions are advance interest and delayed interest, which precede the transaction’s start or follow its conclusion. (We will see in 65:6 that accepting such gifts is forbidden; here we only discuss whether there is an obligation to return them after the fact.)