The class wanted to play dreidel. “What can we use that will be enough for 25 of us?” the rebbi asked.
“Yehuda has a penny collection,” suggested Shimon. “He has two jars of pennies, with hundreds of pennies in each.”
“Can we borrow your jars of pennies tomorrow?” the rebbi asked Yehuda. “No one will keep the pennies; we will return them all when we finish playing.”
“Certainly,” said Yehuda, “but I want a jelly doughnut in return.”
“Agreed!” laughed the rebbi.
The following day, Yehuda brought his jars of pennies and handed them to the rebbi, who placed them on his desk.
Suddenly, an armed thug appeared. He demanded the teacher’s wallet, grabbed a jar of pennies, and ran off!
“A Chanukah miracle!” exclaimed the rebbi. “Thank G-d it ended safely! We can still play with the remaining pennies.” He distributed a jelly doughnut to each talmid.
“Don’t forget the extra doughnut that you promised me,” said Yehuda. “You, or the class, also owe me for the jar that you borrowed and was stolen. Each jar contains 500 pennies; that’s five dollars.”
“We’re not liable for the jar stolen by the armed thug,” said the rebbi. “That’s a case of oness, for which we’re not responsible.”
“Really?!” asked Yehuda, shocked. “If I lend you money and it’s stolen – you don’t have to repay?!”
“And wasn’t the extra jelly doughnut ribbis?” asked Shimon.
“Let’s check with Rabbi Dayan,” said the rebbi. He called Rabbi Dayan and asked:
“Are we liable for the stolen jar of pennies? Is the extra doughnut ribbis?”
“We mentioned last week that ribbis applies to halvaah – lending money and items intended for consumption,” replied Rabbi Dayan, “but not to hashalah – lending items to use.
“Nonetheless, the Gemara (B.M. 69b) teaches that there can be situations in which money is lent not to spend but rather just for use as an object, with intent to be returned itself; e.g., when the borrower wants to display it at a show, or to impress potential creditors that he holds capital. In such a case, the loan is not monetary, but rather like lending other objects – hashalah, so that the laws of shomrim (guardians) apply, not those of loans” (Y.D. 176:1).
“Here, the pennies were not lent as monetary value, but rather as objects to be used and returned themselves – hashalah, so that there is no violation of ribbis. The jelly doughnut demanded for use of the coins is their rental fee, just as Yehuda could have charged rental had he lent, instead, 500 metal rings.
“By demanding a doughnut, though, Yehuda reduced the nature of guardianship from a sho’el – borrower, to that of a socher – renter, who is not liable for armed robbery, which is oness” (C.M. 303:3; 307:7).
“In contrast, when lending money as monetary value to spend and repay other money, the lender cannot ‘rent’ it for a fee, since inherently this is a loan – halvaah – and the ‘fee’ is ribbis.
“Furthermore, although normally a renter can agree to accept full responsibility, even for oness, this is not allowed in our case, since coins do not depreciate through such use. Thus, there is no longer justification for charging rent, since the user now bears full responsibility and there is no depreciation of the object; it would be ribbis” (Rema and Taz, Y.D. 176:1).
“Moreover, if the friends were to spend the pennies, against the planned intention, it would become a monetary loan; Yehuda could no longer charge ‘rent’ for the money. Even if he received the extra doughnut before the money was spent, he would have to return it” (Shach 176:1; Bris Yehuda 29:2).
“In this case, though,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “the pennies were rented only to use and be returned themselves. Thus, the doughnut is not ribbis and the rebbi is exempt from responsibility in the armed robbery.”
Verdict: Coins can be ‘rented’ to use and return intact; the user is then liable as a socher.