Esti is a secretary for a lawyer's office. She sometimes has to type out loan
agreements which contain a clause obligating the borrower to pay interest. If
the loan is made between Jews, is there any problem in typing out the document?
Can she assume that the agreement is being made in accordance with ribbis laws
or does she have to clarify that this is the case before proceeding with typing?
Bovo Metzia (75b) informs us that not only do those who borrow or lend on
ribbis commit a sin, but also one who acts as guarantor for the loan and
the witnesses to it. According to the Chachomim, the scribe who writes
out the loan agreement has also sinned. The gemoro explains that these
other participants in the forbidden transaction transgress the Torah
prohibition of (Shemos 22:24), "You shall not impose interest upon him"
Tosafos add that sometimes these participants also transgress the
Torah prohibition of "placing a stumbling block in front of a blind man
(lifnay iver)", which warns us against causing a fellow-Jew to sin.
Tosafos comment that this prohibition is only infringed if the transaction
would not have taken place without witnesses, guarantor or document. Should
their participation not be essential, they have not violated this prohibition.
This is like the case of one who hands a cup of wine to a nazirite. He does
not transgress this prohibition unless the nazirite would not have been able
to reach the wine without his assistance (e.g. it was on the other side of the
river. However, they are still guilty
of the rabbinic prohibition against assisting sinners (messahyayah liyday
The Shulchan Oruch (Yoreh Deah 160:1) rules that guarantors
and witnesses commit a sin, but does not mention the scribe. However, the
Shach, quoting the Semag and the Rambam, adds that the scribe
is also guilty, this being the unanimous opinion of the Halachic Authorities.
He also mentions that one who acts as a broker between borrower and lender also
transgresses, even if he does not receive payment for his services.
It would therefore follow that if Esti knows that this loan was being
given by a Jewish lender to a Jewish borrower in contravention of ribbis
laws, she may not type out the loan agreement. If her employer is a Jew, he
is also forbidden to play any part in this transaction. All Jews are prohibited
from participating in such a forbidden loan in any way. If she can effectively
rebuke her Jewish employer, she should do so.
Esti also asked whether she has a duty to find out whether the loan is being
given in a permitted manner (heter iska) before typing out the loan agreement,
or can she assume that all is well. The answer is that if one of the parties
is a Torah observant Jew, whether it is the lender, the borrower or the
lawyer, she can assume that the transaction is being executed in accordance
with ribbis laws (see Kovetz Beis Hatalmud l'Horo'oh, Vol.5, 65:78).
However, if all those involved are not Torah observant, it is
forbidden for her to proceed with typing the document until she has clarified
that the details of the transaction are being carried out in accordance with
halochoh (Responsa of Rav Yonasan Steif, No.5). Even if refusal to type
out such documents will cause her financial loss, and even if it will cause
her to lose her job, she may not participate in this forbidden transaction.
A Jew must be prepared to suffer financial loss rather than transgress any negative
commandment. As mentioned above, one who types out a loan agreement which violates
ribbis laws has transgressed at least one Torah and one rabbinic prohibition.