Business Halacha: Merchandise Loans


merchandise-loanQ: Under what circumstances are merchandise loans permitted?

A: We mentioned last week that Chazal prohibited merchandise loans unless they are based on the cash value, lest the price of the merchandise rise before repaying the merchandise. This is called se’ah b’se’ah (a measure for a measure).

Nonetheless, Chazal allowed three exceptions to this prohibition, which cover many of the common cases.

  1. Yesh lo (he has): If the borrower has even a small amount of the merchandise in stock, he may borrow more of that merchandise. It is even permissible for the lender to give or sell the borrower a little bit of the merchandise, in order to allow borrowing a large quantity. (Y.D. 162:2)
  2. Yatza ha’shaar (there is a stable price in the market): If the item is readily available at a fixed, stable price, it is permissible to borrow (e.g. postage stamps or, possibly, produce after the season is well under way). (162:3; The Laws of Ribbis 14:11)
  3. Davar mu’at (small amount): It is permissible to borrow a small amount of food from neighbors, since the potential price discrepancy is generally insignificant and neighbors do not care. (Rama 162:1; Mishna Berurah 450:2)

These laws are also relevant for borrowing foreign currency, as we will discuss next week, IY”H.

Authores by Rabbi Meir Orlian

These articles are for learning purposes only and cannot be used for final halachic decision. The Business Halacha email is a project of Business Halacha Institute ( and is under the auspices of Rav Chaim Kohn.

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  1. It is usually no problem because the Courtesy Car is only used for a short time and when returned, is usually the same cash value as when it was borrowed. As far as the gas is concerned, it is a major world war amongst Poskim if the gas is considered a component of the car just like the steering wheel and there is no problem returning “new” gas or if the gas is a new item and Seah B’seah might come into play. Most Poskim say that gas has a stable price (at least weekly, and in Israel, usually for months at a time) so the heter of Yatza Hasha’ar bails you out. However, one should be very careful to note the gas guage so as not to return (even for a Rental car from a Jewish owned company) a full tank when receiving a 1/2 tank because the extra gas is Ribis Ketzutza and must be returned.
    This issue can also apply to engine oil, windshield wiper fluid, etc. as well as pens (though it is a Davar Mu’at unless the person is Mapkid) and pencils.
    Consult your Rov when conducting any business that may seem to be a loan or borrowing.

  2. How about of buying something bofore shabbos and using it during shabos and then returning it. Is that Miter or not or is that a chilel hashem

  3. It is Ossur for one to purchase an item from a store with the intention to use it and then return it. This is because the store owner is selling you the item with the intention that it is only returnable if you really have a good reason. You are stealing from him by essentially “renting” the item for free.
    It is unfortunate that this happens and that Jewish stores have to put up big no return signs around Yom Tov time when some might actually have a valid reason to return something.


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