1) HALACHAH: LENDING WITH INTEREST TO A NOCHRI
OPINIONS: Rav Nachman said in the name of Rav Huna (70b) that one who lends with interest to a Nochri will be punished by losing all of his assets. The Gemara challenges Rav Nachman's statement from the Mishnah (70b) that states that "we may borrow from them (Nochrim) and lend to them with Ribis." Rav Chiya brei d'Rav Huna answers that when the Mishnah permits one to lend to Nochrim with interest, it refers only to when it as necessary to do so in order to support oneself, "Kedei Chayav" (but not to enrich oneself). The Chachamim permitted one to lend to Nochrim with interest where that is one's means of support, but they prohibited profiting more than one's basic needs through usury to Nochrim.
Ravina answers that the Mishnah refers only to Talmidei Chachamim. A Talmid Chacham is permitted to lend to Nochrim with interest because he will not be drawn after the ways of the Nochrim as a result of doing business with them.
According to the answer of Rav Chiya brei d'Rav Huna, does the allowance to lend to Nochrim with interest for the sake of one's livelihood apply only to an Am ha'Aretz or even to a Talmid Chacham? Similarly, according to Ravina, who answers that a Talmid Chacham is permitted to lend to Nochrim with interest, is an Am ha'Aretz prohibited from lending to a Nochri with interest even for the sake of supporting himself?
(a) RASHI explains that according to Rav Chiya brei d'Rav Huna, the reason why the Chachamim prohibited lending with interest to Nochrim for the purpose of profiting more than one's basic needs is that one might become habituated to lending with interest and lend even to Jews. Based on this reasoning, the OR ZARU'A (5:207) writes that according to Rav Chiya brei d'Rav Huna all people, including Talmidei Chachamim, are prohibited from lending with interest to Nochrim for more than one's basic needs.
According to Ravina, who maintains that the concern is that one might be drawn after the ways of the Nochrim, the prohibition against lending with interest to Nochrim applies only to an Am ha'Aretz, and even to lending with interest in order to support oneself. A Talmid Chacham, however, is permitted to lend to Nochrim with interest to Nochrim as much as he wants, since there is no concern that he will be drawn after their ways.
(b) RABEINU CHANANEL (Kisvei Yad, as printed in the Or Zaru'a and other places) writes, "When the Mishnah states that we may lend to them with Ribis, Rav Chiya explains that this refers only to profiting enough to support oneself, and this applies only to Talmidei Chachamim who will not learn from the ways of the Nochrim, but for everyone else it is prohibited." The Or Zaru'a there (5:208) writes that Rabeinu Chananel understands that Ravina is not arguing with Rav Chiya brei d'Rav Huna, but that he is explaining Rav Chiya's explanation of the Mishnah as applicable only to Talmidei Chachamim. Everyone agrees that an Am ha'Aretz is prohibited from lending to Nochrim with interest, even for the sake of supporting himself.
The RAMBAN, however, understands Rabeinu Chananel's words differently. The Ramban explains that Rabeinu Chananel does not mean that Ravina is explaining Rav Chiya's answer, but rather Rabeinu Chananel means that Ravina argues with Rav Chiya, but Rabeinu Chananel has a doubt about whom the Halachah follows, and thus he rules stringently in accordance with both answers. (The Ramban challenges the view of Rabeinu Chananel.)
The Ramban himself writes that although Ravina and Rav Chiya disagree, the Halachah follows both opinions to be lenient. Consequently, all people (even Amei ha'Aretz) may lend to Nochrim with interest in order to support themselves, while lending with interest in order to profit more is prohibited for Amei ha'Aretz but permitted for Talmidei Chachamim. This is also the view of the RAMBAM (Hilchos Malveh v'Loveh 5:2), the TUR, and SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 159:1).
TOSFOS (70b, DH Sashich) asks why the common practice today is to lend to Nochrim with interest with no limitations. Even if we rule leniently in accordance with both views (Rav Chiya and Ravina), nevertheless only a Talmid Chacham should be permitted to profit more than his basic needs, while for all others it should be prohibited.
1. In his first answer, Tosfos writes that since the Gemara records an alternate rendition of Rav Huna's statement in which Rav Huna does not prohibit lending with interest to Nochrim at all, the answers of Rav Chiya and Ravina do not apply. Since the matter involves only an Isur d'Rabanan, we rule leniently and follow the second version of Rav Huna's statement, and thus lending to Nochrim with interest is permitted without limitations.
(b) In his second answer, Tosfos writes that even if we rule in accordance with the first version of Rav Huna's statement (that lending with interest to Nochrim is prohibited), there are grounds to justify the common practice of lending without restrictions. Tosfos explains that lending with interest to Nochrim is permitted today because of the burden of the taxes of the king and the officers upon the Jews, and thus all profit is considered "Kedei Chayav," basic needs.
(c) Tosfos writes further that, to our distress, we live today among the nations and it is not possible to support ourselves without dealing with the Nochrim. Therefore, the reason to prohibit lending to Nochrim with interest because one might be drawn after their ways does not apply nowadays (any more than it applies to any other business dealings with Nochrim).
The TUR and SHULCHAN ARUCH (loc. cit.) rule in accordance with the view that nowadays lending with interest to Nochrim is permitted without restrictions.
However, contemporary authorities have questioned whether the allowance to lend with interest to Nochrim without restrictions is applicable today in Eretz Yisrael. The answer of Tosfos that it is permitted only because we live among the nations does not apply today in Eretz Yisrael, where one can support himself entirely through business dealings with other Jews. Moreover, perhaps Tosfos permitted it only in his times, when lending with interest was a primary source of income, while today it is not a primary source of income, and thus perhaps there is reason not to be lenient (see SEFER KELALA D'RIVISA). (I. Alsheich)
2) A "NOCHRI" ACTING AS A "SHALI'ACH" FOR A JEW
QUESTION: The Beraisa (in the Seifa) teaches that when a Nochri borrows money with interest from a Jew, the Nochri may not lend that money to a Jew with interest when the original lender consents. The Gemara explains the Nochri is viewed as the Shali'ach of the Jew, and thus it is as if the Jew is lending money to another Jew with interest. Although, normally, a Nochri cannot be a Shali'ach for a Jew, the Chachamim enacted that he can be a Shali'ach for a Jew when being a Shali'ach will result in a stringency (such as in this case, where considering the Nochri to be the Shali'ach of the Jewish lender results in a Chumra that the Nochri may not lend the money to another Jew). (Although the act that the Shali'ach is doing is an act of an Aveirah, and there is a principle that "Ein Shali'ach l'Devar Aveirah," the Gemara earlier (10b) cites an opinion that when the Shali'ach who performs the act is not prohibited to do that Aveirah, "Ein Shali'ach l'Devar Aveirah" does not apply.)
RASHI (Shabbos 153b) and RABEINU CHANANEL maintain that the Gemara's statement here is the Halachah, and a Nochri does have the status of a Shali'ach for a Jew where it results in a Chumra.
The TESHUVOS PNEI YEHOSHUA (YD 2) quotes HA'GA'ON RABEINU REBBI HESHEL who asks that if the Halachah is that a Nochri can be a Shali'ach for a Jew when it is l'Chumra, then why is a special prohibition of "Amirah l'Nochri" needed with regard to Shabbos (see later, 90a)? A Jew should not be allowed to tell a Nochri to do Melachah on Shabbos because of the Halachah that the Nochri can be a Shali'ach for the Jew when it is a Chumra; if the Nochri does the Melachah at the behest of the Jew, it is considered as though the Jew himself does the Melachah. Why is a special enactment of "Amirah l'Nochri" necessary to prohibit a Jew from telling a Nochri to do Melachah on Shabbos?
ANSWER: The BEIS MEIR (#5) and CHASAM SOFER (OC 84) answer that with regard to doing a Melachah on Shabbos, it is not possible to make the Jew liable for a Melachah done through Shelichus. Only when the very action itself constitutes a repulsive act before Hash-m is the Nochri's act on behalf of the Jew attributed to the Jew. The act of a Melachah on Shabbos is not an intrinsically repulsive act. Melachah is forbidden on Shabbos in order for a Jew to rest on Shabbos from constructive labor ("l'Ma'an Yanu'ach"). For this reason, one is permitted mid'Oraisa to place a pot of raw food on the flame before Shabbos in order that it cook on Shabbos. Hence, when a Nochri does a Melachah at the behest of a Jew, even if the Nochri is considered the Jew's Shali'ach, the Jew himself is resting from Melachah and is fulfilling the requirement of "l'Ma'an Yanu'ach," and thus the Jew has done no Aveirah. Therefore, it is necessary to have a special prohibition of "Amirah l'Nochri" on Shabbos to prohibit a Jew from telling a Nochri to do Melachah.
(However, the KEHILOS YAKOV (Shabbos #55, Bava Kama #20) proves that the NIMUKEI YOSEF in Bava Kama (10a of the pages of the Rif) does not agree with this approach. The Nimukei Yosef asks that one should be prohibited to kindle the Shabbos candles before nightfall on Erev Shabbos since they will continue to burn during Shabbos, and the principle of "Isho Mishum Chitzo" teaches that whenever a flame burns it is as if the person lit the fire at that moment. According to the Beis Meir and Chasam Sofer, the question of the Nimukei Yosef is not a question, because the person himself did no action but rather rested from Melachah on Shabbos, and the action happened on its own.) (I. Alsheich)