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Collected Essays: v. 1$
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Haym Soloveitchik

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781904113973

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781904113973.001.0001

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Usury, Jewish Law

Usury, Jewish Law

(p.41) Chapter Four Usury, Jewish Law
Collected Essays: v. 1

Haym Soloveitchik

Liverpool University Press

This chapter assesses the author's essay on usury and Jewish law. Usury is defined in talmudic law as “wages for waiting,” that is, money paid for deferred repayment of a loan. Usury is viewed as a violation of the pentateuchal injunction. Rabbinic law extended the range of this injunction to include forms of commodity loans and mortgages. The usury injunction covers five major areas: (1) money repaid at a later date; (2) commodities lent and repaid with increment at a later date; (3) deferred payments of purchase; (4) possessory mortgages, or antichresis; and (5) commenda. Such restrictions posed serious obstacles to most forms of business enterprise or merchant and agricultural credit. As Jews in medieval Europe were engaged in moneylending, liquidity was essential, and replenishment of assets through direct borrowing was a major problem. The most important means of circumvention was the use of a Gentile straw man. However, in Europe, Jewish moneylending was a frequent object of attack by Christian writers from the latter half of the twelfth century on.

Keywords:   usury, Jewish law, talmudic law, deferred payment, commodity loans, mortgages, commenda, Jewish moneylending, direct borrowing, Gentile straw man

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