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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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The Jewish Attitude to Usury in the High and Late Middle Ages (1000–1500)

The Jewish Attitude to Usury in the High and Late Middle Ages (1000–1500)

Chapter Five The Jewish Attitude to Usury in the High and Late Middle Ages (1000–1500)
Collected Essays: v. 1

Haym Soloveitchik

Liverpool University Press

This chapter addresses the Jewish attitude towards usury in the high and late Middle Ages, treating four kinds of data: legal sources (halakhic sources), ethical and philosophical writings, biblical commentaries, and the literature of polemics. Not only was usury to Gentiles viewed as fully permissible legally, there was also no perception whatsoever that there was any moral taint to such an activity or that Jews lent to Gentiles only because there was no other way for them to earn a living. There is equally no ground for claiming that the German Pietists opposed usury. In a large, multifaceted, and formless work such as the Sefer Ḥasidim (Book of the Pious), one can find any and every idea. The polemical literature is equally unenlightening. Substantive conclusions can be drawn only from the “internal literature.” In that literature, one finds no substantive discussion of Gentile usury—neither by halakhists nor by kabbalists, and not even by ethicists, philosophers, or exegetes. They simply saw no problem in usury. The chapter then looks at the Catholic Church's attitude to usury.

Keywords:   usury, halakhic sources, philosophical writings, biblical commentaries, polemical literature, Gentiles, German Pietists, Sefer Ḥasidim, Gentile usury, Catholic Church

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