Hebrew | Francais

Search


> Hemdat Yamim

Shabbat Parashat Beshalach 5782

Ask the Rabbi: Returning to a Gemach Newer Medicines than One Received

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: I used a local medicine gemach, which prefers receiving replacement medicine but also allows giving back with money. The pills they gave me were slightly past expiration (they said it was okay for immediate use). While not wanting to be difficult, isn’t it ribbit to give back either (new) pills or their monetary value, considering that expired medicine is worth less than normal?

 

Answer: We will not discuss the pharmaceutical questions this question raises, which are not within our expertise.

Let us expand the question. Is it permitted to receive and return new medicine? The mishna (Bava Metzia 75a) forbids (Rabbinically) lending commodities in a way that obligates the borrower to return the same type and amount he received (se’ah b’se’ah). This is out of concern that the article’s price will increase and the borrower will have to return more value than he received, and it applies even if the article’s price remained unchanged.

We will take a cursory look at relevant leniencies (see more in Living the Halachic Process, II-F-5), which can apply in many cases of gemachs. One reason for leniency is yatza hasha’ar (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 162:3). It permits the loan of a readily available commodity with a stable price.

Another heter applies to cases of warm relationships. The gemara (Bava Metzia 75a) rules that one may lend loaves of bread to a friend without stipulations. The Rama (YD 162:1; the Shulchan Aruch is somewhat stricter) rules like those who explain that small changes in the value of small quantities are not considered purposeful interest. It is difficult to know what he would say about a case like this. On the one hand, we are talking about kind people who run gemachs and their chesed “clients,” but on the other hand, gemachs often have clear rules.

Both of these heterim are problematic when the borrower returns a clearly larger quantity than he borrowed (Torat Ribbit 7:(7); Brit Yehuda 17:(6).), and a clearly more valuable version of the same commodity is equivalent. It is hard to know what to say about this case. On the one hand, many people would not be willing to accept expired medicine. On the other hand, it is unclear that it has a lower price, as people who would buy it anyway, might be willing at the regular price. Furthermore, the service one gets along with the product affects its price (Pitchei Choshen, Ona’ah 10:(1)). If a business would sell under the conditions of a gemach (e.g., late at night, Shabbat), they likely could sell old medicine for at least the regular price.

The fact that you are not required to return with money may be helpful. The Shulchan Aruch (YD 162:1) rules that if one lent a commodity but set a price above which the borrower does not have to pay if the price goes up, then he may give back the commodity. Applying this concept to our case is too complicated to do justice in this context, both in regard to halachic complexity and the likelihood that it is impacted by nuances regarding the rules of the gemach (see Chavot Da’at (161:1), Netivot Shalom (p. 193-4) Divrei Sofrim, p. 71).

Regarding most gemachs, there is a strong leniency to rely upon. Rabbinic ribbit is waived when the lender is a charitable entity (Shulchan Aruch, YD 160:18). Poskim generally apply this rule broadly to gemachs (Torat Ribbit 20:26; The Laws of Ribbis 19:5; Brit Yehuda 17:(45) distinguishes between different types of gemachs). This likely applies to your case, whose potential violations are Rabbinic – se’ah b’se’ah and/or voluntary ribbit. This explains how many gemachs can encourage (not, require) donations from borrowers (Torat Ribbit 20:27).

Finally, many pasken that a borrower does not violate Rabbinic ribbit other than for causing the lender to sin (Rama, YD 160:1). Therefore, if a lender has what to rely upon, the borrower does not have to worry (see Netivot Shalom, p. 83). Considering all the above and the likelihood that what the gemach did was standard and that many gemachs have halachic guidance, you may follow their instructions.
Top of page
Print this page
Send to friend


Dedication

We daven for a complete and speedy refuah for:

Nir Rephael ben Rachel Bracha
Yisrael ben Rivka

Rivka Reena bat Gruna Natna

Arye Yitzchak ben Geula Miriam

Neta bat Malka

Meira bat Esther

Together with all cholei Yisrael

Hemdat Yamim is dedicated

to the memory of:

Those who fell in wars

for our homeland

 

Rav Shlomo Merzel z”l
Iyar 10, 5771


Rav
Reuven & Chaya Leah Aberman z"l
Tishrei 9
,5776 / Tishrei 20, 5782

 

Mr. Shmuel & Esther Shemesh z"l

Sivan 17 / Av 20

 

Mr. Moshe Wasserzug z"l

Tishrei 20 ,5781

 

R' Eliyahu Carmel z"l

Rav Carmel's father

Iyar 8 ,5776

 

Mr. Zelig & Mrs. Sara Wengrowsky

Tevet 25 5782 / Tamuz 10 ,5774

 

Rav Asher & Susan Wasserteil z"l
Kislev 9 / Elul 5780

RMeir ben

Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld z"l

&

Mrs. Sara Brachfeld z"l

Tevet 16 ,5780

 

RYaakov ben Abraham & Aisha

and

Chana bat Yaish & Simcha

Sebbag, z"l

 

Rav Yisrael Rozen z"l
Cheshvan 13, 5778

 

Rav Benzion Grossman z"l
Tamuz 23, 5777

 

R' Abraham Klein z"l

Iyar 18 ,5779

&

Mrs. Gita Klein z"l

Av 4

 

Rav Moshe Zvi (Milton) Polin z"l
Tammuz 19, 5778

 

R' Yitzchak Zev Tarshansky z"l

Adar 28, 5781

Nina Moinester z"l

Nechama Osna bat Yitzhak Aharon & Doba

Av 30, 5781

 

R' Chaim Leib ben

Michael Kreisel z"l

Shevat 2

 

Hemdat Yamim
is endowed by
Les
z"l  & Ethel Sutker
of Chicago, Illinois
in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker
& Louis and Lillian Klein z”l

site by entry.
Eretz Hemdah - Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies, Jerusalem All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy. | Terms of Use.