Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 23   No. 18

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
ר' יואל זאב בן ר' יוסף הלוי אינטרקט ז"ל
on the occasion of his eighth Yohrzeit 26 Shevat

Parshas Mishpatim

Tzedakah - A Topic of Interest

"When you lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you, do not act towards him as a creditor, do not place upon him interest" (22:24).


We may not know the ultimate reward of the Mitzvos (Pirkei Avos, 2:1), yet Sh'lomoh ha'Melech teaches us in Mishlei (10:2) that "Tzedakah saves from death". Moreover, Chazal list it, together with Teshuvah & Tefilah, as a Mitzvah that removes the evil decree. Chazal also tell us that Tzedakah is greater than sacrifices (on the merit of which the world exists). Indeed, Tzedakah itself is listed at the beginning of Pirkei Avos as one of the three pillars upon which the world stands.

Of the many levels of Tzedakah, the Rambam places lending a fellow-Jew on top of the list - because it is the least embarrassing way of helping him out when he needs it (notwithstanding the fact that ideally speaking, one refrains from reclaiming the loan).

The most severe aspect of Mitzvas Tzedakah is the prohibition of lending on interest. In fact, someone who does, transgresses no less than five La'avin (negative commandments), in addition to which he forfeits his portion in the World to Come (See Bava Metzi'a, 75b).

Considering the importance of Tzedakah in general and the Mitzvah of lending in particular, as we explained earlier, why is the Torah so strict on this issue? What is so wrong with recouping the losses that one inevitably sustains when lending a large sum of money for a long period of time - particularly bearing in mind what he could have done with it had he not lent it out?


Here are a few reasons that shed light on the Torah's attitude towards taking interest:

The Seifer ha'Chinuch (Mitzvah 68) explains that charging the debtor interest is to an extent, self-defeating, since on the one hand, one is assisting a person in need, whilst on the other, one is imposing a financial burden on a person who is already struggling to make ends meet - particularly, if the interest is accumulative (compound interest).

Someone who takes interest presumably maintains that he is merely retrieving lost capital, as we insinuated earlier. But he has forgotten the Medrash that 'More than the Balabos gives the poor man, the poor man gives the Balabos' - a statement that is hardly surprising, considering the dividends that Tzedakah offers in exchange for nothing more permanent than a small amount of money. The Torah also indicated ("Aser te'aser", Parshas Re'ei 14:22) that, not only can one not lose by giving Tzedakah, but that it results in financial gain.

Another good reason for the prohibition is the fact that, as opposed to performing a Mitzvah she'Lo li'shemah, which is permitted - even encouraged by Tzedakah and which does not detract from the spiritual context of the Mitzvah, charging interest turns the Mitzvah into a business transaction, where a major consideration - if not the main one - is how to make a profit out of it.

We also need to remember that G-d gives people wealth in a form of a deposit, on the condition that they distribute some of their money to the poor (in fact it is their passport to the World to Come, as we have pointed out on other occasions). The Tzedakah that a person gives therefore, actually belongs to the poor man by right. What justification does the rich man therefore have to make a profit on the poor man's money?

Finally, the Torah in Re'ei (13:20), when forbidding the lender to take interest, refers to the borrower as "your brother". 'The Torah considers all Jews brothers, and one would hardly expect a person to take interest from his brother. Taking interest therefore is indicative of a basic shortcoming in one's relationship towards one's fellow-Jew.

* * *

Remembering Shabbos
(continued from last week)

A Taste of the World to Come

When Yisrael stood at Har Sinai, G-d called Yisrael and said to them 'My children, I have a fine gift in the world to give to you'.

'Ribono shel Olam', they replied, 'What fine gift do you have for us … ?'

'It is called "OLom ha'Bo" ', replied G-d.

'Ribono shel Olom', said Yisrael, 'Won't you show us a sample of Olom ha'Bo?'

'Yes', came back the reply, 'The sample is Shabbos, which is one sixteenth of Olom ha'Ba, which in turn, is completely Shabbos'.


Two Lights

The reasons that we kindle two lights on Shabbos are manifold:

Because of the Neshamah Yeseirah (the extra Soul) that we receive every Shabbos, and the Pasuk states in Mishlei (20:) 'The soul of man is the lamp of Hashem'. So we kindle two lights in honour of our two Souls.

Corresponding to the 248 limbs of a man plus the 252 limbs of a woman, which add up to 500, which in turn, corresponds to two times the numerical value of 'Ner' (250).

The most basic reason is of course based on the double expression "Zochor" and "Shomor", which appear on the first and second set of Luchos respectively. Kabalistically, the two expressions also refer to man and woman respectively (thereby connecting the two latter reasons), representing the Sholom Bayis that form the basis of the Mitzvah.


Talking on Shabbos

The word 'Shabbos' is made up of three letters 'Shin', 'Beis' & 'Tav'. These form the acronym of the first three letters of 'Sheinah Be'Shabbos Ta'anug' (sleep on Shabbos is a pleasure). A Talmid once asked his Rebbe how we know that the 'Shin' represents 'Sheinah' and not 'Sichah' - talking.

Without batting an eyelid, the Rebbe quoted the Pasuk in Mishlei "A wise man's heart is on the right!" What he meant was that whereas the dot is the left side of the 'Siyn' of 'Sichah', it is on the right side of the 'Shiyn' of 'Sheinah', and a wise man should be 'right'-minded.

The fool, who thinks to the left, as the Pasuk there continues, thinks that it is a Mitzvah to chat on Shabbos. And a fool he is, as to the contrary, as the Gemara says in Shabbos (113b), which, based on a Pasuk in Yeshayah, learns that one's speech on Shabbos should be different than one's speech during the week. Rashi there, explains this as a prohibition to talk business on Shabbos. But Tosfos points out that we already know that from another source. They therefore interpret it as a Mitzvah to cut down on idle chatter on Shabbos.


Shabbos - in Pairs

The Medrash points out how just about everything connected with Shabbos is double:

1. Zochor & Shomor

2. Lechem Mishneh (two Challos)

3. Two Korbanos (the two lambs of the Mussaf-offering)

4. Its 'Shir' is double (most Pesukim in "Mizmor shir le'Yom ha'Shabbos are doubled).

5. Two lights.

* The letter that denotes two is 'Beis' - which stands for B'rachah (which is the reason that the Torah begins with a 'Beis'.) And Shabbos is the source of B'rachah.

That is why the Torah writes about someone who desecrates it "Mos yumos" - a double expression, which is what he deserves for desecrating the source of blessing.

* * *

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