Business Halacha: Ribbis and Borrowing Merchandise


shoppingQ: Does the prohibition of ribbis apply also to borrowing merchandise? For example, may I borrow produce and repay later an equivalent or greater amount?

A: The prohibition of ribbis applies not only to money, but also to merchandise. Therefore, borrowing 100 lbs. of tomatoes in order to repay 110 lbs. later would be ribbis prohibited by the Torah.Borrowing merchandise and returning the same amount is permitted by the Torah.

Borrowing merchandise and returning the same amount is permitted by the Torah. However, our Sages prohibited it in many situations, because the value of the merchandise may increase during this time. For example, the 100 lbs. of tomatoes may have been worth $50 when borrowed, but cost $60 at the time of repayment. This prohibition is called se’ah b’se’ah (a measure for a measure).

Therefore, our Sages required that loans of merchandise be made based on the merchandise’s value when borrowed, e.g., $50. Even if this was not done, if the value increased, one may only return an amount of tomatoes equivalent to the value borrowed. (Y.D. 162:1)

There are three significant exceptions to this rabbinic prohibition: yesh lo (the borrower owns some of that type of merchandise), yatza ha’shaar (there is a set, stable market price), and davar mu’at (the quantity borrowed is minimal). IY”H, we will discuss these exceptions next week.

Authored 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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