by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Re'eh (71)Deut. 15: 2
And this is the matter of Shemita: Every creditor who lends anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not demand it of his neighbor, or of his brother, because it is proclaimed the Shemita of Hashem.
Every creditor who lends anything to his neighbor shall release it: Rashi: There shall be a release of the hand of any creditor.
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
Actually here Rashi is best understood when we see the Hebrew wording of both the Torah's words and those of Rashi, because Rashi just rearranges the words of the verse. In Hebrew it reads "Shemot kol ba'al mashe yado" Literally meaning: "Let any person release his loan."
Rashi rearranges the words to read: "Shemot es yado shel kol mashe". Literally meaning: "Let any creditor release his hand."
BACKGROUND: The seventh year is Shemita. Which means that on that year all loans are "released", which means that the creditor has, to all intent and purposes, lost his loan if the borrower had not paid back the money by the end of the seventh year. It is lost!
Now let us question Rashi:
An obvious question is: Why does Rashi make this change and what practical difference does the change in wording order make? Can you see any practical difference?
An Answer: While it might seem that there is little practical difference between Rashi's wording and the Torah's, in reality there is a major difference. Rashi says the 'hand' of the creditor shall be released. Which means his grip on the loan is loosened - he no longer 'holds on to the loan' - BUT the loan itself still exists. This means that while the lender is no longer allowed to claim his money back, the borrower, nevertheless still has the obligation to pay it back!
Actually the Talmud says the same thing - that a person should really return the loan even after Shemita, even if the lender says "I am releasing you of the loan." (Gittin 37:2).
Let us question Rashi again:
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: Actually we should be bothered by Rashi! His reading goes against the 'trop' (taamei Hamikra) the musical notes which also act as a guide to correct reading. In our verse the words 'mashe yado' are connected with each other, the meaning is not the 'hand' that is released, rather 'the loan of his hand' is released.
So why does Rash ignore this?
An Answer: If we look at the last words in verse 3 we see the words "your hand shall release" So here it is clearly the 'hand' that releases and not he loan.
Also we have the Tamud we cited above as support for Rashi.
Another reason Rashi chose this interpretation may be because he thought this was more reasonable and fairer. The loan is not lost but the lender can no longer badger the borrower.
This interpretation of this verse is given by the Sefer Yereim. The author was a student of Rabbeinu Tam, who was a grandson of Rashi. So maybe the Rashi family had this interpretation as a tradition.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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