Those who do not have a credit balance in their bank account – should not overdraw, ruled Ramat Gan's Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, who is a senior member of the Religious Zionism movement.
According to Rabbi Ariel, the "transaction permit" – a halachic solution that prohibits collection of interest, is ineffective in cases of overdrafts created due to consumption needs. Ariel noted that those who find themselves facing this dilemma should consult their rabbis.
In an issue of the halachic pamphlet Gilui Da'at (Manifesto), which is distributed across synagogues on Saturdays, Rabbi Ariel wrote about the prozbul (Jewish legal function), which prevents cancellation of debts in a fallow year. Ariel explained that this was not done in order to fit the Halacha to reality due to financial constraints, but was rather meant to prevent a situation in which merchants exploit the mitzvah of annulling debts in order to take out loans without paying them back.
Rabbi Ariel stressed that the central idea behind the fallow year was that "you shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother."
According to Rabbi Ariel, a similar mistake is common with the ""transaction permit," which led him to rule against maintaining an overdraft in the bank. Ariel explained that this permit defines the lender and borrower as business partners, and therefore it is it is permitted in certain cases, although some have abused the permit.
"The Torah didn't intend for business owners to exploit the mitzvah of charity and interest prohibition in order to get rich on the expense of their fellows," wrote the rabbi. "Therefore, in the case of consumer loans where a transaction cannot be made, the interest is forbidden."
Rabbi Ariel added that the transaction permit we are accustomed to nowadays was built on the foundations of a transaction that was permitted by the laws of the bible to begin with – and does not allow for any consumer loan. It is advisable that those taking out such a loan, or making an overdraft withdrawal for consumer purposes, should consult with a rabbinical religious authority.
"Precisely in modern times, when it is credit that makes the economy's wheels spin, we should not trample our moral values of charity and interest prohibition," concluded Rabbi Ariel.
"If the credit system was more considerate of the transaction principles of the halacha, the investments would have been far more serious and responsible, and would have promoted the market more effectively. There is no concept that is more advanced than the distinction between available credit and production to the mitzvah of charity and urgent need for consumption," he wrote.
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