Suppose that Reuven is strapped for cash. He goes to the local Gemach and gets a hefty $10,000 dollar loan for his daughter's wedding. 3 months later, Reuven manages to acquire the money and repays his debt.

Reuven then feels a tremendous gratitude towards this Gemach and wants to show his appreciation by donating some money. Is Reuven allowed to donate money to the Gemach, or is this a case of Ribbis?

[I am purposely leaving the time-span between Reuven's repayment and his feeling of benevolence out of the case. I would expect an answer cover all possible time-spans, and how they relate to the Halacha]

  • Is he giving them money to keep, or just depositing money in the gemach?
    – Ariel K
    Dec 18, 2011 at 3:44
  • @ArielK Not sure what you mean by "depositing" money... He's giving them money so they could lend it out to others. A donation.
    – yydl
    Dec 18, 2011 at 4:11
  • Can you explain why you think a voluntary action which is not expected or asked for by the lender can ever be considered Ribis?
    – avi
    Dec 18, 2011 at 9:30
  • yydl, re your comment: Some free-loan funds are funded (at least in part) by free loans. That's probably what @ArielK was thinking of.
    – msh210
    Dec 18, 2011 at 16:39
  • @avi, every source on ribis says so. For example, the one I cite in my answer.
    – msh210
    Dec 18, 2011 at 23:19

2 Answers 2


Rabbinical prohibitions of Ribbis do not apply where a charity's moneys are involved. Therefore,... someone who receives a free loan from a charity may subsequently choose to show his appreciation by making a donation to the charity. This is permitted even if the donation is clearly being offered in gratitude for the loan.[36]

[36] Bris Yehudah 7:n45. This is not Ribbis Ketzutzah since it was not a condition of the loan. [If a donation is made to charity, it is preferable that it be made before the loan is granted or after it is repaid, since these are more lenient forms of Ribbis DeRabbanan (ibid.).]

— Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, The Laws of Ribbis, first edition, Mesorah Publications, chapter 4, paragraph 20, pages 85–86. (Google Books link.)

As always, for practical matters, consult your rabbi rather than relying on what you read on this site.

  • 1
    The key distinction is - the borrower can give a gift to the gemach, but the gemach can in no way state, or even hint, that future donations are required.
    – user1095
    Dec 18, 2011 at 18:00
  • 1
    @Will, that seems to be correct: that would, AFAICT, be not a rabbinical prohibition of ribis but ribis k'tzutza, which is forbidden d'oraysa, by biblical law, and therefore applies even to a tz'daka.
    – msh210
    Dec 18, 2011 at 18:06

I don't think it would be a problem. In general, when one puts money in a Gemach, he can withdraw it at a later time. So Reuven is not paying any ribbis, he's just lending the gemach some money which they can lend to others. It seems highly implausible to claim that one cannot lend money as a favor to someone who lent you money, (and definitely not when lending to a gemach).

In addition, Ribis md'oraysa is only when it was set at the time of the loan. M'drababnan there are restrictions on giving gifts during the time of the loan, but afterwards that issue becomes much more lenient. It only applies if the borrower specifically states that the gift is because of the loan, regardless of his intentions. (However, shortly after the loan was repaid, only small gifts are allowed.)

See The Laws of Ribbis eg p.61.

  • 1
    This is a donation, not a loan to the Gemach. He is giving them money, not lending them money. However, your second paragraph is, I believe, correct. This is ribbis me'ucheres coupled with it not being explicitly in return for the loan, which makes it non-problematic. However, if the borrower gives the donation at the same time as he repays his loan, or if he says - or even implies- that it is in appreciation of the loan, I think it would be a problem.
    – jake
    Dec 18, 2011 at 16:01
  • Since he took money from the gemach earlier, it seems as though he might take from the gemach again later. Not a straight forward donation.
    – avi
    Dec 18, 2011 at 16:14

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