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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Mezi'a
the [minimum] requirements of a livelihood.1 Rabina said: Here [in the Mishnah] the reference is to scholars. For why did the Rabbis enact this precautionary measure?2 Lest he learn of his ways.3 But being a scholar, he will [certainly] not learn of his ways.
Others referred this statement of R. Huna to [the teaching] which R. Joseph learnt: If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee:4 [this teaches, if the choice lies between] my people and a heathen, 'my people' has preference; the poor or the rich — the 'poor' takes precedence; thy poor [sc. thy relatives] and the [general] poor of thy town — thy poor come first; the poor of thy city and the poor of another town — the poor of thine own town have prior rights. The Master said: '[If the choice lies between] my people and a heathen — "my people" has preference.' But is it not obvious? — R. Nahman answered: Huna told me it means that even if [money is lent] to the heathen on interest, and to the Israelite without [the latter should take precedence].
It has been taught: R. Jose said: Come and see the blindness of usurers. If a man calls his neighbour wicked, he cherishes a deep-seated animosity against him;5 whilst they bring witnesses, a notary, pen and ink, and record and attest, 'So-and-so has denied the God of Israel.'6
It has been taught: R. Simeon b. Eleazar said: He who has money and lends it without interest, of him Scripture writes. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved;7 thus you learn that he who does lend on interest, his wealth8 dissolves.9 But do we not see [people] who do not lend on interest, yet their wealth dissolves? — R. Eleazar said: The latter sink [into poverty] but re-ascend, whereas the former sink but do not re-ascend.10
Wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?11 R. Huna said: 'the man that is [merely] more righteous than he,' he devoureth: but the man that is completely righteous, he cannot devour.
It has been taught: Rabbi said: The righteous proselyte12 who is mentioned in connection with the sale [of oneself for a slave], and the resident alien who is mentioned with reference to usury — I know not their purpose. 'The righteous proselyte who is mentioned in connection with a sale' — as it is written, And if thy brother that dwelleth with thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee;13 and not only 'unto thee' [a Hebrew], but even to a proselyte, as it is written, [and sell himself] unto a proselyte;14 and not alone to a righteous proselyte, but even to a resident alien, as it is written, to a proselyte [and] a settler;15 or to a family of the proselyte — i.e., to a heathen; hence, when it is said, or to the stock etc. it must refer to one who sells himself to the service of the idol itself.16
Now,17 the Master said: 'And not only unto thee, but even unto a proselyte,' as it is written, [and sell himself] unto a proselyte.' Are we to say that a proselyte may acquire a Hebrew slave? But the following contradicts it: A proselyte cannot be acquired as a Hebrew slave, nor may a woman or a proselyte acquire a Hebrew slave. 'A proselyte cannot be acquired as a Hebrew slave', for the verse, and he shall return unto his own family, must be applicable. which it is not [in the case of a proselyte];18 'nor may a woman or a proselyte acquire a Hebrew slave' — a woman, because it is not seemly;19 a proselyte, because it is a tradition that he who can be acquired can himself acquire, but he who cannot be acquired, cannot himself acquire! — R. Nahman b. Isaac said: He cannot acquire [him] under the provisions of an Israelite [owner], but may acquire [him] as a non-Israelite [master]. For it has been taught: He [sc. a Hebrew slave] whose ear is bored,20 and he who is sold to a heathen, serve neither the son nor the daughter.21
The Master said: 'Nor may a woman or a proselyte acquire a Hebrew slave.' Must we assume that this disagrees with R. Simeon b. Gamaliel? For it has been taught: A woman may acquire female but not male slaves. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel ruled: She may acquire even male slaves! — It may agree even with R. Simeon b. Gamaliel, yet there is no difficulty: the former applies to a Hebrew slave, the latter to a Canaanite slave. A Hebrew slave she deems to be self-respecting;22 whereas a Canaanite slave she deems unreservedly dissolute.23 But what of that which R. Joseph learned: A widow may not breed dogs,24 nor permit a scholar to live with her as a boarder? Now, [the prohibition] of a scholar is intelligible, since she deems him self-respecting; but as for a dog since it will follow her [if she commits bestiality], she will surely be afraid!25 — I will tell you: since it follows her even if she merely throws it a piece of meat, that will be assumed the cause of its attachment.26
'The resident alien who is mentioned with reference to usury:' — What is it? — For it is written, And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him; yea, though he be a proselyte or a settler, that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him nor increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee.27 But the following opposes it: ONE MAY BORROW FROM AND LEND TO THEM ON INTEREST; THE SAME APPLIES TO A RESIDENT ALIEN! — R. Nahman b. Isaac replied: Is it then written, 'Take thou no usury of them'?28 'of him' is written, [meaning] of an Israelite.29
Our Rabbis taught: Take thou no usury of him, or increase, but thou mayest become a surety for him.30
Baba Mezi'a 71b
A surety to whom? Shall we say to an Israelite?1 But we learnt: The following violate the negative precept: The lender, the borrower, the surety, and the witnesses!2 Again if it means to a heathen:3 since, however, it is the law of the heathen4 to claim direct from the surety, it is he [the surety] who borrows from him!5 — R. Shesheth answered: It means that he engaged himself to bring his actions in accordance with Jewish law.6 But if he engaged to abide by Jewish law, he should not take usury either! — R. Shesheth replied: He pledged himself for the one but not for the other.
AN ISRAELITE MAY LEND A HEATHEN'S MONEY [ON INTEREST] WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE HEATHEN, BUT NOT OF THE ISRAELITE. Our Rabbis taught: An Israelite may lend a heathen's money [on interest] with the knowledge of the heathen, but not of the Israelite. E.g., if an Israelite borrowed money from a heathen on interest, and was about to repay it, when another Israelite met him and proposed. 'Give it to me and I will pay you as you pay him' — that is forbidden; but if he presented him to the heathen,7 it is permitted.8 Similarly, if a heathen borrowed money from an Israelite on interest, and was about to repay it, when another Israelite met him and proposed. 'Give it to me, and I will pay you as you pay him,' it is permitted; but if he presented him to the Israelite, it is forbidden.9 Now, the second clause is well, for there the ruling is in the direction of greater stringency; but as for the first clause, since the law of agency does not apply to a heathen, it is he [the Israelite] who takes interest from him [his fellow-Israelite]!10 — R. Huna b. Manoah said in the name of R. Aha, the son of R. Ika: Here it is meant that he [the heathen] said to him [the Israelite], 'put it [the money] on the ground and you may go.'11 If so, why state it? — But, said R. Papa, it means, e.g., that he [the heathen] took it [from the first creditor] and personally gave it [to the second]. Yet even so, why state it? — I might think that the heathen himself, in acting so, transfers the money pursuant to the wish of the Israelite,12 therefore it is taught otherwise. R. Ashi said: When do we maintain that agency cannot be vested in a heathen, only in reference to terumah;13 but in all other Biblical matters the principle of agency holds good in the case of a heathen. This [distinction], however, of R. Ashi must be rejected.14 For why does terumah differ, that [agency] is not [allowed to a heathen]? Because it is written, [Thus] ye, ye also [shall offer an heave offering etc.],15 [teaching], just as ye are members of the Covenant, so also must your deputies be members of the Covenant! But [is not] the principle of agency, as applied to all Biblical matters, derived from terumah!16 Hence R. Ashi's distinction is to be rejected.
Others state: R. Ashi said: In what sense do we maintain that agency cannot be vested in a heathen, only that they cannot be agents for us; but we can be agents for them.17 But this [distinction] of R. Ashi is to be rejected. For why the difference, that they cannot be agents for us? Because it is written, 'Ye, ye also', which teaches the inclusion of your agents; just as 'ye' are members of the Covenant, so must your agents be members of the Covenant? But with reference to ourselves being agents to them, does not the same [exegesis] apply: by 'just as "ye" [who appoint agents],' members of Covenant are meant.18 Hence R. Ashi's distinction is non-acceptable.
Rabina said: Though a heathen has no power of agency, yet, by Rabbinical law, one can obtain possession on his behalf. For this is similar to a minor: surely, a minor, though excluded from the principle of agency,
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