By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
In Meseches Bava Metziya, daf ayin heh, amud bais Rabban Shimon bar Yochai says that if one owes his friend money he is not allowed to greet him first. This is derived from the posuk that says “Kol dovor.. yishach.”Any interest is forbidden, and extra words may be considered interest as well. There is a machlokes Rishonim whether this prohibition is an issur de’Oraysa or an issur de’Rabbanan. The difference would be important when one has a safek why he is greeting the person. Is he doing so because of the loan, or is his behavior just regular polite behavior? If it is a de’Rabbanan we would pasken le’kula. If it is a de’Oraysa it would be le’chumra.
What is the halacha if Reuven did not know the lender before the loan? He now knows Shimon because Shimon granted him a loan. Reuven is accustomed to greeting everyone he knows with, “Good morning!” Would it be permissible for Reuven to greet Shimon this way now that he knows him? The Levush says one should not be “makdim shalom” to his lender in appreciation for the loan. The Bris Yehuda in Perek Yud Alef, halacha chof chesasks the following question. May Reuven greet Shimon even when it is not connected to the loan? He answers that the Levush is referring to a case where Shimon became Reuven’s relative or neighbor after the loan and he would then be allowed to say hello if it is not in appreciation for his loan. However, since he is saying it is in appreciation for the loan, the greeting would be forbidden. The Sefer She’eiris Chaim explains that the problem of saying hello is only forbidden if he shows “hachnaa,” (humility) hence the expression used is “makdim shalom” (greets him first.) In the event the Shimon greets Reuven first, there would be no issue of responding in kind.
The issue with the lender greeting the borrower first may be a problem if the borrower has no money to pay back his loan at that time. The lender might be considered a “nosheh” (collecting on a loan), which would be forbidden if the borrower has no money. The only way they would be able to greet each other is if they take turns greeting first; sometimes the lender and sometimes the borrower, hence there is no issue of hachnaa. It would then be permitted to greet each other provided that the greetings are in no way connected to the loan.
It would be preferable if the lender would greet the borrower first, right after he loaned him the money where the terms of the loan has not yet expired. Subsequently, the borrower may greet him first as long as there is no hachnaa involved.
May Hashem bless us all with sholom.