Thursday, February 4, 2016

Tzedakah: A Loan to Hashem

A Teaching of the Maggid of Dubno

“When you lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you, do not act towards him as a creditor” [Mishpatim  22:24].

The Midrash explains this verse by citing another: “One who is gracious to the poor has lent to Hashem,  and He will pay him his reward” [Proverbs 19:17].

How can it be said that one has lent to the Master of the universe? The Maggid of Dubno offers a parable in order to understand this.

One day Shimon needed some money. His friend Reuven offered to lend it to him on condition that Shimon finds two guarantors in case he couldn’t pay back at the agreed-upon date.

Shimon found the first guarantor, his friend Aryeh, who was financially well-off. His second guarantor, Benjamin, was hardly better off than Shimon himself.

Shimon happily returned to Reuven with the papers signed by both guarantors, and as agreed upon, Reuven lent Shimon the money and put the contract away for safekeeping.

Shimon traveled to a great trade fair in the market district of the capital. Hashem was with him and his earnings increased. Too occupied to even properly deal with his present business, Shimon forgot the due date set for paying back his loan.

The repayment period having passed, Reuven felt quite embarrassed. He held Shimon’s contract in his hand, but there were no signs of Shimon himself.

Reuven asked his assistant to find Shimon. He left to search for him but wasn’t successful because Shimon had left the city not long after having received Reuven’s money. Furthermore, no one knew where he was or when he would return.

After hearing this, Reuven ordered his assistant to approach the guarantors in order to reclaim his money. Without difficulty the assistant found the address of Aryeh, who lived in a beautiful home and was well known in the city. He then went in search of Benjamin, and was told that he lived in a tiny lane in the poor section of town. Arriving there, the assistance saw a passer-by wearing a patched-up coat and asked him if he knew someone by the name of Benjamin.

“Benjamin,” he slowly repeated. “Yes, that’s me. How may I help you?”

“You have a friend by the name of Shimon? He disappeared after having borrowed some money….”

The assistant couldn’t continue. He felt too embarrassed. How could he recover money from a man that he wasn’t even sure could feed himself on that day?

He decided to approach the first guarantor, Aryeh. The assistant went to his home and presented him with the signed contract. Aryeh then reimbursed the entire sum.

Reuven was delighted that Aryeh paid the total amount of the loan and that there was no need to collect anything from Benjamin. Thus Reuven would cause Benjamin neither shame nor suffering to admit that he owned nothing and couldn’t pay his portion of the loan.

Among gentiles, it is normal to lend money with interest in order to make even more of it.

Lehavdil, we act differently in Klal Israel, for the Torah forbids us to take interest. Everything happens as if Klal Israel was in possession of a sum of money, a sum made available to everyone in need and regularly supplied with cash infusions by those who have great amounts of money.

It’s a great mitzvah to lend money without interest.

We are also taught that we shouldn’t humiliate those who owe money but have none with which to pay back. No pressure should be exerted on the poor, and no attempt should be made to remind them of their debt. A person who lends money to another is even advised to avoid meeting the debtor, for the latter might see him and get scared, thinking that he has come to reclaim what the poor person owes, and so the latter will have to admit to the fact that it’s impossible for him to pay it back.

As was stated earlier, in the book of Proverbs it is written, “One who is gracious to the poor has lent to Hashem, and He will pay him his reward.”

In other words, the poor individual receives the tzeddakah as a gift, but for Hashem it is a loan that He will pay back a hundred fold. Also, when a person can’t pay back his debt, the example of Reuven in the parable should be followed. Let us appeal to the more fortunate one, to Aryeh; let us address Him Who possesses all the wealth in the world, Who blesses all our actions that enable us to perform His mitzvot.

Source: Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita

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