When you borrow something from the (secular) library, does it follow the same halacha as a loan from one Jew to another?

  • 2
    related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/9744/…
    – jake
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 17:55
  • 3
    Is it a Jewish-owned library?
    – Seth J
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 17:58
  • "does it follow the same halacha" for what purposes? (Note that ribis applies only to loans of fungible things so doesn't apply here, in case that's what you're thinking of.) You might also want to edit into the question why you think it would follow the same rules as loans between Jews (consider that, for most libraries, it's not a loan between Jews).
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 19:39
  • @msh210 I think there are several halachot here. Many libraries have written rules that apply to their "loans" and which you accept when you get your library card. Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 21:10
  • I had assumed the intent was with regard to the "four watchmen", making the borrower liable for essentially any damage to the book except for regular use.
    – Ze'ev
    Commented May 29, 2013 at 21:57

1 Answer 1


As a general rule, in monetary matters, there is no difference between dealing with Jews or non-Jews; and in both cases the (written or oral) agreement between the parties is binding.

Notable exceptions are:

  1. Ribis: One can never charge interest to a fellow Jew; certain types of interest are allowed when dealing with non-Jews. See the Rambam in הלכות מלווה ולווה פרק ה for details.
  2. Mistakes. If a fellow Jews errs, one must inform him and ensure he's paid in full. If a non-Jew errs in his calculation - and you inform him that you are relying on his calculations and there is no chance of him discovering his error and a Chillul Hashem being caused then you can pocket the extra money. See the Rambam in הלכות גזילה ואבידה פרק יא:ה for more details

So in your case: all the rules of the library would apply and you would have to abide by them. However, if they make a mistake, then the rules in #2 above apply.

E.g. If you are late in returning a book, and they charge you a late-fee, and they err in the calculation, you do not have to correct their arithmetic, you can simply say "are you sure that's the amount?" and then pay the reduced fee.

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