Letters Nov. 2014

Charging Interest to a Gentile who then Converts

Reader: Richard is converting to Judaism but doesn't have any money at all;so he goes to his friend Moises and tells him:"Look,I am getting my brith milah in two weeks but I am unemployed and cannot afford it.Would you lend me the money?Next month I will start to work and I will repay you." Can Moises charge him interest or not?When Richard asked him money,he was still a gentile so a Jew is allowed to charge interest;but he will be Jewish when he'll be able to pay back his debt and Jews cannot charge interest on each other.Many thanks.

Rabbi: I would say the violation of interest is the "acceptance" of it. Not the mere conditional agreement at the time of the loan. For at that time of the loan, there was no interest yet to speak about. Interest only comes into the picture once the borrower performs the act of repayment. Therefore, he cannot accept the interest from the man who is now a Jew.

A Treaty of 1000 Generations?

Reader: Hashem makes covenant with Abraham, “These words which I have given you I shall keep for a thousand generations.” This is my question: When does this time period end?  If each generation is 30 years, 30 X 1000 = 30,000 minus 5775 years = 24000? Is this literal? Or, is one of God's “generations” different than one of man's generations?

Rabbi: You quote Psalm 105 verse 8, where God references a “treaty He made for 1000 generations.” Ibn Ezra explains this means that God’s treaty with Israel is one that will be eternal, that the Children of Israel will never cease to maintain the fame as God’s chosen. Also, that the land of Israel will remain eternally in our possession. Therefore, Ibn Ezra explains 1000 generations to mean “eternal.”