17 Issue #26

Parashos Behar-Bechukotai ‫פרשות בהר־בחקתי‬

24 Iyar 5773

Charging Interest on Loans

Rabbi Michael Taubes
In this Parsha, the Torah forbids usury, that is, charging interest, known as Ribbis, when lending money (Vayikra – 25: 35-37). The Mishna in Sanhedrin (24b) states that when onewho lends money and charges interest is disqualified from serving as a witness in a Beis Din; Rashi (ibid. – “V’Eilu”) implies there that this person is considered a thief. The Gemara in Bava Metzia, (71a) adds that a usurer will eventually suffer financial losses; the Yerushalmi in Bava Metzia (Perek 5: Halacha 8 – Daf 24b) compares a usurer to one who denies the existence of Hashem. The Rambam (Hilchos Malveh U’Loveh Perek 4: Halacha 2) rules that one who lends money with interest violates six different Biblical violations, and the borrower also violates two prohibitions. The Tur (Yoreh Deah – Siman 160) therefore stresses that one must be exceedingly careful regarding this prohibition against charging Ribbis. The Gemara in Bava Metzia (72a) presents a dispute as to whether one who writes a contract detailing a loan which includes a requirement to pay interest, in violation of the above law, has any validity at all. One authority holds that the lender is penalized and not only can he not collect the interest, but he also cannot recover the principal. Other authorities, however, disagree, and allow the lender to collect the principal, but not of course the interest. According to the latter position, therefore, the illegal part of the agreement in the contract does not affect the legal part. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah – Siman 161: Se’if 11) rules that according to the accepted Halacha, everything depends upon how the Ribbis payment was described in the contract. If it is clear exactly what amount is the principal and what amount is the interest, because for example, as the Ramo (ibid.) explains, the contract specifies the distinction or in fact mentions only the principal while the interest obligation is attested to by other witnesses, then the lender may collect the principal using this contract. If, however, the distinction is not clear, and the contract simply specifies one amount (which includes the principal and the interest),

then the entire contract is considered invalid and the lender may not use it even to collect the principal. The Shulchan Aruch elsewhere (Choshen Mishpat – Siman 52: Se’if 1) explains that the whole contract is invalidated so that the lender will not come to collect the interest as well. The Ramo (ibid.) adds, however, that if the lender can furnish some other proof about the debt, he can still collect the principal. Although the Ramo (ibid.) does say that according to one view, this idea is incorrect, the Poskim do not seem to accept that view (See the Shach - Se’if Katan 4). The Ramo (Yoreh Deah – ibid.) also writes that anyone who finds a document that outlines a loan which includes a charge for Ribbis should destroy the document in order to prevent the lender from collecting that Ribbis. This ruling is based on a statement of Tosafos in Bava Metzia (ibid. – “Shtar”) in the name of the Tosefta there (Perek 5: Halacha 9). The implication there is that this requirement exists even though the lender, because his document has been destroyed, may now no longer be able to collect the principal either. One may infer from this that one must try to prevent a fellow Jew from committing a sin even if he will thereby cause him financial losses, an interesting concept in its own right. The Ketzos HaChosen (Choshen Mishpat – Siman 3: Se’if Katan 1) discusses Beis Din’s obligation in this regard. What happens if one has already violated the prohibitions and actually collected interest from the borrower when the loan was repaid? The Gemara in Bava Metzia (61b) records a dispute between two Amoraim as to whether or not Beis Din may force the lender to return the Ribbis money. One view is that when the Ribbis amount is fixed, constituting a Torah based violation, the Beis Din may force the lender to return it; this is based, as the Gemara there (ibid. 62a) indicates, on the phrase of this Parsha (VaYikra – 25: 36) which says that one must allow one’s fellow man to live. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah – ibid. Se’if 5) accepts this view. The Gemara in Temurah (6a-6b) relates this question of whether or not the lender must return the Ribbis money to a general dispute between Abayei and Rava as to whether or not any action which violates a Torah law

‫קו ו‬ can nonetheless have binding validity; Abayei rules that it can, and Rava rules that it cannot. The generally accepted view is that it cannot, representing another reason why the Ribbis money must be returned. This logic would imply that the money must be returned even if the borrower never claimed it back, an issue which is the subject of dispute between the S’ma (Choshen Mishpat – Siman 9: Se’if Katan 3) and the Taz (ibid. & Yoreh Deah – ibid. Se’if Katan 3). It is interesting to note that some Rishonim hold that even if the lender returns the Ribbis money, he has still not undone the violation, or all of the violations, he committed by charging interest (See Rashi there – “Lo” & Tosfos there – “Lo”, and other Mefarshei HaShas).
Page 2

‫ש עק‬

Vol. 17 Issue #26

According to the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuvah (9:1), it would be ridiculous to say that the primary rewards or punishments of Mitzvos are physical. The real reward and punishment will come with Olam Haba and Gehinom. However, one who serves God with sincerity and joy will gain the prosperity and peace needed to continue doing so, and his reward will thus increase exponentially, because it will be easier and easier for him/her to serve God as he/she does so. One who rebels against God (chas v’shalom) will be punished with a life in which Mitzvos are more difficult and the ultimate reward is more difficult to attain. In order to bridge these two explanations, we must notice that both views understand reward and punishment to be obvious. Doing a Mitzvah will automatically yield a reward that is far greater than anything we experience in this world, and will, naturally, lead to another mitzvah, since the Torah is a web of perfection. Ignoring a Mitzvah will automatically yield a punishment that is far worse than anything we experience in this world, and will naturally lead to the rejection of another Mitzvah, for the same reason. This is as clear as day to the Rambam and Ramban. What we really learn from this Parashah is that the universe functions based on Mitzvos, and that our own experience is not a complete view. We must see everything in the physical reality, and in our own realities, as Torah in disguise. It must be obvious to us that Tefillin, Shabbos, or loving a fellow Jew instantly create infinite goodness. It must also be obvious that hurtful words, not davening on time, or inappropriateness instantly create the opposite. Staying anchored to Earth, breathing, and not being on fire? Not so pashut. May we all be zocheh to open our eyes. Weak Weeks or Strong Shabbosos


Eliezer Berger
Anyone can tell you that throwing a rock at a window will break the window, or that putting your hand in a fire will burn your hand severely. Everyone understands that the act of planting seeds will yield food, or that maintaining a job will yield a salary. Much of life seems to be made of simple causes and effects. One may easily use his or her senses and intellect to understand this system, because it is nearly always obvious. Unfortunately, when one is doing a mitzvah, one cannot see his/her reward directly or clearly. Conversely, when one contemplates doing an Aveirah (chas v’shalom), it is a challenge to see the horrific consequences of the potential action. To address this problem, let us look at the style of the berachos and kelalos in Parshas B’chukosai. The berachos, a short list of rewards for following the Torah, seem to be promising mainly agricultural prosperity and military victory. The kelalos, a long series of punishments for rejecting the Torah, are some of the most frightening and difficult Pesukim in the entire Torah (they are even read faster and more quietly because of their severity), but they too speak about physical tragedy. Shouldn’t the Torah be describing the far greater spiritual effects of the Mitzvos? The Ramban and Rambam each offer an explanation. According to the Ramban, the Torah need not speak about spiritual rewards for pursuing that which is spiritual; it is a given. The Torah is teaching that Torah study and the performance of Mitzvos merit reward that is supernatural and which can only be attributed to Hashem’s kindness. It is miraculous that keeping shemitah results in the powering-up of one Jew to destroy one hundred enemies. It is miraculous that violating shemitah results in national exile. It is physical reward that is not obvious.

Corey Fuchs, MTA ‘08
Sefira is a time known to most as counting up to the days of Shavuous, the day that we receive the Torah. When describing these days, the Torah tells us to count “Sheva Shabbasos”, generally translated into “seven weeks”. Why though do we so easily dismiss the fact that these days are described as shabbosos, and translate them as mere weeks? This question is expounded upon by Rav Avraham Schorr Shlit’ah in his sefer Lekach V’Halivuv (5771). The answer is as follows. The mizmor that is said each and every shabbos as the shir shel yom gives us great insight into the day

‫קו ו‬ that it praises. The Maharal (Netzach Yisrael perek 19), while trying to understand the connection between shabbos and the perek of Tehillim that is assigned to it, explains that this mizmor talks about the elimination of all bad from this world. This is because the best way to express praise for something is by showing how that particular place or time is filled with only good.
Vol. 17 Issue #26

Page 3 ‫ש עק‬ we warrant the physical Brachot detailed in the earlier Pesukim but we will also be deserving of building the Beit Hamikdash as home for Hashem’s presence. Furthermore, venatati mishkani betochechem means we will merit an even more special relationship with Hashem in Gan Eden.

Shabbos is the foundation of all the good that comes into our lives, “Shabbos hi mekor haberacha”. The word beracha, as the Maharal also explains, is spelled Bet-ReishChaf. Each of these letters is the second in their mathematical column. 2 is second in the “ones column”, 20 is second in the” tens column”, and 200 is seconds in the “hundreds column”. The significance of the number 2 is that it not only represents double of the original quantity, but the overall potential for exponential growth. When a person is involved with beracha, or makes a beracha, he causes another beracha. It is through this understanding that we can turn back to the days of the Omer. The Omer is a time period when, as Jews, we are all working on ourselves towards the goal of receiving the Torah. This goal can be actualized only in a step by step process, and not overnight. The fact that the weeks of the omer are described as shabbosos means that just as shabbos, the mekor ha’beracha, brings with it the koach of potential growth and goodness, the counting of sefira and the time period allotted for personal growth and character refinement has that same quality. We are able to tap into the “beracha goreres bracha” aspect of Shabbos while experiencing “midah goreres midah”, as one growth opportunity leads to another. Beyond Mikdash

Ramban’s interpretation of the first phrase is similar to Rashi that following the Brachot of physical, economic and military success we are being promised the spiritual reward of building a Beit Hamikdash. The second phrase according to Ramban however is not referring to an even more intense relationship in Gan Eden, rather vehithalachti betochechem is a reference to the net effect that all of the Brachot will have in total. Mainly, when you have a nation that is given such blessing in all aspects of its existence it is easy and obvious to sense that Shechinah ‫ שורה בישראל‬that we are blessed with Hashem’s presence. Perhaps most intriguing though is Sforno’s understanding of the phrase venatati mishkani betochechem. While Rashi and Ramban were in agreement that this refers to the building of the Beit Hamikdash, Sforno suggests that it is something, perhaps, far greater. If we are to receive the greatest Brachot that the Torah has to offer, the Shechinah will not be limited to the confines of the ‫מקדש‬built on ‫הר‬ ,‫הבית‬but rather will be present wherever ‫בני ישראל‬are located. Citing the Pesukim prior to Chet HaEgel, the Sforno paints the picture of a nation so blessed that Hashem’s Shechinah is not merely sensed in its holy abode but “Bechol makom asher azkir shemi”- any location that we call out His name. Thus for Sforno the subsequent phrase in the Pesukim flows naturally, vehithalachti betochechem, that we are not limited to feeling a close connection to Hashem in a single location, but wherever we may be we will merit sensing the closeness of Hashem’s Shechinah. What is fascinating about the Sforno’s comment is that it forces us to look beyond the Beit Hamikdash as the ultimate in Avodat Hashem. Yes, it is the epicenter of our relationship with Hashem, but its purpose is to spread Hashem’s presence beyond its walls to ”Bechol makom shetihiyu”- that our towns and villages far beyond the walls of ‫ ירושלים‬are saturated with a sense of ‫ קדושה‬as well. Perhaps this same sentiment is echoed in the Pesukim of ‫ישעיה ב‬, as the nations of the world flood the street of ‫ ירושלים‬and stream towards the ‫ מקדש‬as promised ‫באחרית‬ ‫הימים‬, we declare ‫כי מציון תצא תורה ודבר ה' מירושלים‬: that presence and word of Hashem is not contained within ‫ירושלים‬, but emanates from it. Our spiritual headquarters effectively distributes the Shechinah to all of the local

Rabbi Eli Cohn
The opening Pesukim of ‫ פרשת בחקותי‬list for us the tremendous blessings that await us if we are successful in keeping the Torah. Starting with promises of the meteorological stability and agricultural success, the Pesukim continue to describe peace and security within the borders of ‫ ארץ ישראל‬and military prowess beyond. The all too brief section of Brachot concludes with the assurance that Hashem’s Shechinah will be present amongst Bnei Yisrael. The Pesukim declare venatati mishkani betochechem and later vehithalachti betochechem. Rashi understands the first phrase as referring to the Beit Hamikdash . That is to say that if we are successful in the mission that Hashem has set out for us not only will

Vol. 17 Issue #26 ‫ש עק ק ו‬ branch offices of ‫עם ישראל‬. years of the cycle compliment the shemitah year. The Torah tells us: This coming week we will celebrate ‫ יום ירושלים‬and “‫”שש שנים תזרע שדך ושש שנים תזמר כרמך‬ recall and give thanks for the many miracles that occurred on ‫ כ"ח אייר‬forty-six years ago. It was the fulfillment of so “For six years you should plant your field and for six years many of the Brachot found in this week’s ‫פרשה‬, if only for you should plant your vineyard.” This commandment, the an all too brief moment in time. As such, it behooves us to Drash Dovid explains, is also a test of our emunah. The consider our relationship with ‫ ירושלים‬as a whole, and the normal way of farming is to leave one field fallow each ‫ מקום המקדש‬in particular. We are so privileged to have year to let it regain its nutrients. However, the Torah is access to these locations where we can sense the presence telling us to do the exact opposite and to plant our fields of Hashem with more intensity. At the same time it every year for six years, thereby forcing us to rely on challenges us to bring that ‫ קדושה‬to ‫בכל מקום שתהיו‬, that we Hashem’s bracha. Also, the issur of lending money with should warrant a special relationship with Hashem interest is found in this week’s parsha near the discussion of wherever we may be. shemitah. Thus, we see two places where we are required
Page 4


Shemitah, Seven Years of Emunah

Yehuda Tager
In this week’s parsha, parshas behar, Hashem gives us one of the most difficult mitzvos in the entire Torah. This is the mitzva of shemita, to leave the land fallow once every seven years. However, this mitzva requires a deeper understanding. What is it purpose, and, if it is so critical, why don’t we have it more often? The purpose of shemitah is to increase our faith in Hashem. When we leave our land empty we are effectively relying on a miracle. This is not an easy thing to do. However, the Torah is deeply disappointed with anyone who cannot do this. The Torah addresses the person who asks:
“‫”מה נאכל בשנה השביעת‬

to trust Hashem to provide for us rather than relying too much on ourselves. However, this is all leading up to something greater. The Gemara tells us that the first question Hashem asks us when we die is whether we were honest in business. However, there is a different Gemara that says that the first question is about Torah study. It turns out that they are really very similar. The question about setting up time for Torah is asking whether you had enough emunah to push aside your financial obligations for the sake of Torah, and the question about honesty in business is asking whether you had the requisite emunah to refrain from taking money of others. We should all work to strengthen our emunah and Hashem should bring us back to eretz yisrael so we can all keep the mitzvos together and we should be zoche to the end of galus and the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash bemehaira beyamainu amen.
Menahel: Rabbi Michael Taubes Rabbinic Advisor: Rabbi Baruch Pesach Mendelson Editors in Chief: Philip Meyer and Ori Putterman Executive Editor: Yehuda Tager Associate Editors: Asher Finkelstein and Yisrael Friedenberg Distribution Coordinator: Ezra Teichman Editors in Chief Emeritus: Meir Finkelstein and Yoni Schwartz

“What will we eat in the seventh year?” and reassures him that there will be bracha in the crops and he will not go hungry. However, this question seems silly. This person should be wondering what he will eat in the eighth year, for the produce of the sixth is available to him during the seventh. Rav Moshe explains that the Torah is purposely expressing the question in this manner to show us that this question is just as unfounded as that of “what will I eat in the eighth year?” Either way, the person is worrying about grain that he should know he will have, either because it is physically in his storehouse or because Hashem promised it to him. However, we still must wonder about the other six years. Why is Hashem giving us natural income during most of our lives? Are we supposed to limit our bitachon to this one year? In answer, we can say that the other six

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful