This issue is sponsored
Vol. 23 No. 48
l'iluy Nishmas Betzalel ben Yitzchak Yaakov z"l
whose Yohrzeit is 2 Elul (5747)
by an anonymous donor
Releasing a Debt in the Sh'mitah-year
"Beware, lest you harbor an 'evil' thought in your heart, saying 'The seventh year, the Sh'mitah-year is approaching' and you will look malevolently upon your destitute brother, and you do not give (lend) him, then he will cry out against you to Hashem, and you will have a sin" (15:9).
The Gemara in Bava Metzi'a (62a) cites the opinion of ben Petura, who claimed that if two men are travelling in a desert, one of whom has a flask of water - just enough to keep one person alive, then they should both drink - even though it means that they will both die. Rebbi Akiva disagreed, and as proof that the owner is permitted to drink the water and save his life, he cited the Pasuk in B'har (25:36) - that writes, in connection with the prohibition against taking interest, "And your brother shall live with you". From the word "with you", Rebbi Akiva extrapolates (out of context) that your life takes precedence over that of your friend.
In view of that Gemara, we need to understand why, when it comes to lending a fellow-Jew money shortly before the Sh'mitah, the Torah warns against desisting to issue the loan, in spite of the fear that the Sh'mitah will cancel the loan. Why in this case is one obligated to lend the money - even though the borrower's gain is the lender's loss?
Bearing in mind the fact that Rebbi Akiva proves his point from the Pasuk concerning Ribis is a clear indication that the Torah draws no distinction between a matter of life and death and a financial one, so that cannot be the answer.
The difference between the two cases is twofold, and either, or both of them, will resolve the apparent contradiction. 1. The fact that whereas the obligation to lend one's friend money is confined to money that is spare, money that is not needed for one's Parnasah, the water in the first case was certainly needed by the owner. 2. Whereas in the case of the water, the owner would certainly have died had he shared it with his co-traveler, it is not at all certain that, if one loans one's friend before the Sh'mitah, the loan will not be repaid. Bear in mind that the borrower might well pay back the money, if not before the end of the Sh'mitah (when the debt becomes cancelled), then at a later date - since it is only demanding the debt that the Torah forbids, but not the voluntary repayment, which it even encourages.
There is another way of resolving the problem, in that the Din of the cancellation, based on the understanding that releasing a debt is merely a branch of the Din of Sh'mitah - indeed, the Torah uses the same term "Hashmatah" (cancelation) to describe it. Remember that the very basis of Sh'mitah is 'Bitachon', a reminder that the land belongs to Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu, a concept that requires one to relinquish one's ownership of the land, and to bear whatever losses that this might entail - losses that the Owner of the land will certainly recompense. And the same lesson will apply to debts; one must remember that all one's money and property belongs to Hashem, who has commanded that, like the land, in part at least, one must give up one's rights over it, and place oneself in His Hands.
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Freewill & Choice
"See, I am placing before you today, blessings and curses" (4:26).
The Pasuk teaches us that, at any given moment, every person is faced with two options - one that will earn him a blessing, the other, a curse. Whatever a Jew does earns him, either a blessing or a curse. This means that every act that he performs, every word that he utters is either a good deed or a bad one; there is no such thing as in between. And a similar sentiment is contained in the words of Zeresh who told Haman 'This people are compared to the stars of the heaven and the dust of the earth; when they rise, they rise to the top, when they fall … ' A Jew either goes up or he goes down, he is never static!
How to Attain the Divine Blessings
Ibid. & "the B'rachah if (asher) you will obey the Mitzvos … " (4:26/27).
These opening Pesukim also drop a three-point hint at how to attain the blessings to which it refers.
1. "See! - To constantly keep our eyes open ('the eyes and the heart are the body's two spies') to be cognizant of this awesome choice and vigilant in its execution.
2. "Today" - to act with Z'rizus (alacrity) in carrying it out, not to procrastinate, to leave for tomorrow a Mitzvah that one can perform today, and …
3. "asher (tishme'u)" - which can be interpreted as performing the Mitzvos with Simchah (as 'osher' means joy). Someone who does so will never 'go off the path', as the Yerushalmi explains 'A lover does not lash out'.
Interestingly, these three traits are hinted in the opening word "Re'ei" - The 'Reish' for 'Re'ei (see); the 'Alef' for 'osher' (simchah) and the 'Hey' for 'hayom' (today).
The 'Mitzvah' of Shechitah
" … then you shall Shecht from your cattle and sheep … " (12:21).
1. Although there is no Mitzvah per se to Shecht an animal, if one wants to eat meat, the live animal must first be Shechted. It belongs to a group of Mitzvos called 'Matirin' - like giving a Get and Tzitzis.
2. An animal that dies without a valid Shechitah is termed a Neveilah. Strictly speaking, a T'reifah is one that has one of many specific incurable illnesses (although the Torah does refer to an animal that is killed by a wild animal as T'reifah).
The difference between a Neveilah and a T'reifah (that is still alive) is that, whereas the former is an Av ha'Tum'ah, the latter is not. Consequently, if the T'reifah is subsequently Shechted, it is not Metamei, even though it may not be eaten.
3. Whereas animals require both pipes (the trachea and the esophagus) to be cut, birds require the cutting of only one of them. Fish, on the other hand, do not require Shechitah at all. The reason for this distinction, the Eitz Yosef explains, is based on the fact that a. animals were created principally from earth, birds, from a combination of earth and water, whilst fish were created from water only, and b. that the Shechitah serves to purify the chomer (the physicality) of the animal. And whatever is made from water (which is the source of Taharah) is not subject to Tum'ah.
This latter point will also explain why certain aspects of Tum'as Neveilah apply to birds, but not to fish.
4. The very need for Shechitah, as well as the way it is performed, the exact location on the neck, the careful examination of the knife and the five deviations from the Halachah that render the Shechitah invalid, are all based on the prohibition of 'Tza'ar Ba'alei Chayim' (causing an animal pain) - (See Seifer ha'Chinuch, Mitzvah 451).
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