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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  ( has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.

We see from this week’s parasha that granting an interest-free loan is not just nice, it’s a mitzvah (Exodus 22:24). How much of a loan? As much as the borrower needs, or as much as you can afford. If he needs and asks, and you turn him down, the Torah says that his cries are heard on high—and that’s dangerous stuff. On the other hand, give him that loan and “you shall call and G‑d will answer; you shall cry and He will say, ‘Here I am’” (Isaiah 58:9).

Lending money interest-free is the highest form of tzedakah (charity), far greater than giving free handouts. A handout may preserve a life for a day, but a loan preserves that sense of self-sufficiency necessary to get back on your feet. That’s why every Jewish community is expected to support at least one interest-free loan society.

What if someone is not needy, but would like a loan to make more money? Though it is not of the same significance as helping a truly needy person, it’s still a mitzvah. Unlike tzedakah, free loans are for both the poor and the rich.

Please consider supporting our local Hebrew Free Loan Society at They have been providing assistance to people since 1897!

Some Jewish pointers regarding loaning money:

  • Don’t grant the loan if you believe that the money will be squandered and the borrower won’t have the means to repay.
  • It is expressly forbidden for two Jews to transact a loan that involves any form of interest whatsoever. If the loan is for business purposes, a halachic contract can be drawn up that makes the lender a partner in the business, thus entitling him to some of the profits.
  • Don’t press a debtor if you know that he is unable to repay the debt. Don’t even appear before him, even without making any demands, lest he be frightened or shamed.
  • On Sabbatical years, all loans are voided - contact a rabbi to learn how to avoid this.
  • No loan should be made without either witnesses or a written contract.