The mortgage market in our time can be quite complicated. While a person may be careful when applying for his mortgage to ascertain that the company that he is applying to is not owned by Jews, this may not absolve him from ribbis issues. It frequently occurs that subsequent to receiving a mortgage, the loan is sold to another company which is owned by an irreligious Jew who is not willing to sign a Heter Iska. This puts the borrower in a very tight spot. The Gemara in Bava Metzia ____ teaches us that both the borrower and the lender are prohibited from doing a transaction that involves Ribbis. This means that when the loan was bought by a Jew, the borrower would be prohibited from paying interest on the loan, leaving him with a very stark choice: either pay the entire principal or allow the lender to foreclose on the house.
There is only one solution that this author is aware of, which was suggested by Rabbi Shlomo Miller. The borrower may ask someone else to do him a favor and make the mortgage payments on his behalf without a guarantee of repayment. Then, after each payment, the borrower may repay the person who laid the money out for him, since he hadn’t promised him that he would repay him.
Although this author is not sure what his reasoning is, it may be based on a Gemara in Bava Metzia 69b. The Gemara mentions two types of situations of ribbis that is not paid directly from the borrower to the lender. The first situation is where Reuven (the middleman) gives money to Shimon (the lender) to entice him to lend money to Levi (the borrower). The second is where Reuven (the borrower) pays money to Shimon (the middleman) to convince Levi (the lender) to lend money to Reuven. In both cases, since the ribbis isn’t being paid directly from the borrower to the lender, it is permitted.
The Shulchan Aruch 160:13 quotes the first din and qualifies it by saying that Reuven (the middleman) may not recoup his money from Levi (the borrower). Also, Levi may not tell Reuven to give the money to Shimon to convince him to lend money to him; Rueven must do this of his own volition.
This second qualification is subject to dispute. The Shach (18) rules that it is permitted, and also mentions that even those who prohibit would not consider it to be a biblical prohibition. The Pischai Teshuva (9) brings an opinion that it would be a biblical prohibition, and brings another opinion that holds that even the first
qualification of the Shulchan Aruch would only be prohibited rabbinically.
All of this would not seem to be too helpful, since everyone agrees that there is a rabbinic prohibition in the case where the borrower repays the middleman. However, the Ram”a 160:1 writes that regarding rabbinically prohibited ribbis, the borrower only transgresses the prohibition of Lifnei Iver. When it comes to this prohibition of Lifnei Iver, there are opinions who hold that if the lender would have been able to lend to an irreligious Jew who wouldn’t have been concerned about the ribbis prohibition, the religious Jew who borrows from him doesn’t transgress Lifnei Iver. Additionally, there is a minority opinion that one may borrow from an irreligious Jew and pay interest. Although this opinion is generally disregarded, it nevertheless adds another reason to be lenient.
This author believes that it is possible that Rabbi Miller used all of these calculations in providing this leniency, which, while impractical, may be the only way out for a person who finds himself in this predicament.