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RABBI CHAIM LOBEL הרב חיים לובל

Parshat Mishpatim: Interest
Candle Lighting 1/28/11 4:50 PM NYC EST
Rabbi Chaim Lobel Young Israel of Aberdeen, NJ
www.yiaberdeen.com

 

 

 

Interest In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef ZL)

If you lend money to my people, to the poor who is among you, do not act toward him as a creditor; do not place upon him interest. (Exodus 22:24).  

Rashi (1040 -1105) quotes the Mekhilta (A collection of Halakhic Midrash on the book of Exodus 90 CE 135 CE): Rebbe Yishmael says anytime the Torah uses the expression if it implies a voluntary action, except for three times and this is one of them.  

In other words, Rebbe Yishmael is stating we have an obligation to lend money to other Jews.  

The Ohr HaChaim (Rabbi Chaim ben Moses Ibn Attar, Morocco and Jerusalem; 1696 1743) raises an obvious question. If the requirement to lend money is compulsory, why does the Torah say if? Because, the Ohr HaChaim explains, only those people who can afford to lend are compelled to do so.  

The Ohr HaChaim instructs us to read the verse as follows If you, lend money to my people. Meaning if you are the one chosen to act as G-ds agent, if you are the one who has been provided more than you need, then lend to my people. 

Reading the initial verse If you, lend money to my people changes the tone of the entire verse. If you, lend money to my people, to the poor who is among you, do not act toward him as a creditor; do not place upon him interest. As the Ohr HaChaim teaches us, G-d is saying if you have been chosen to act as His agent, if you have been so privileged, do not desecrate this opportunity by using your position to extract a profit, to act towards the borrower as a creditor. G-d has selected you as his agent and you must act as G-ds agent. 

The prohibition against charging interest does not derive from the obligation to act charitably to your brethren. Rather, it is prohibited because the excess money is not ours; we are merely agents, acting on G-ds behalf, and using His funds to loan money to the needy among us.

Shabbat Shalom 


 
   
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