June 22, 2024
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Zera Shimshon on Parshas Behar

אֶת־כַּסְפְּךָ לֹא־תִתֵּן לוֹ בְּנֶשֶׁךְ וּבְמַרְבִּית לֹא־תִתֵּן אָכְלֶךָ׃

(ויקרא כה:לז)

“Do not lend him your money with added interest, or give him your food with added interest.”

It is written in Gemara Bava Basra (10a), “Rabbi Yochanan said: ‘What is the meaning of the pasuk, “Malveh Hashem chonein doll u’gemalo yeshalaim lo— The one who lends (to) Hashem, one who is gracious to the poor, He will repay him his due?”’” If the implication of this pasuk was not so apparent and obvious, it would be impossible for a person to utter, however, “Hashem is considered as if He borrowed the money and He is bound to pay the one who gives charity.”

Simply understood, Rabbi Yochanan learns from the fact that the pasuk describes a person who gives charity to a poor person as someone who lends money to Hashem, that charity is like a loan to Hashem, and Hashem obligates Himself to pay back the donor.

Zera Shimshon asks: If this is what Rabbi Yochanan meant, it would be more exact if it was written, “The one who is gracious to the poor lends to Hashem,” and not, “The one who lends (to) Hashem, is the one who is gracious to the poor,” since the graciousness to the poor is what causes Hashem to act as the borrower and not vice versa. Why then is the pasuk written out of order?

Zera Shimshon explains the pasuk in light of another Gemara (Babba Basra 9b): “And Rabbi Yitzchak said, ‘What is the meaning of the pasuk, “He who runs to give charity and kindness will find life, charity and honor.”’” What does it mean, that “one who runs to give charity will find charity?” Being poor and receiving charity is a punishment, not a reward. Why, if one strives to give charity, does he receive charity? He should be rewarded for what he did, not punished!

Rather—explains Rabbi Yochanan—the pasuk is saying that anyone who runs to give tzedaka but doesn’t have the means to give that tzedaka, Hashem will help him to “find charity” not for his own personal use, but he will find the money that he needs to give the tzedaka that he strove to give but was unable.

According to this, explains Zera Shimshon, the pasuk, “Malveh Hashem chonein doll u’gemalo yeshalaim lo—The one who lends (to) Hashem, one who is gracious to the poor, He will repay him his due” can now be read in the proper order, “Hashem lends to someone who is gracious to the poor, in order that he will be able to help the poor person.”

However, this might be a beautiful explanation of the pasuk, but how do we understand Rabbi Yochanan who learns from this pasuk that Hashem considers Himself a borrower of the money that is given to someone in need?

Zera Shimshon explains: Rabbi Yochanan learns this from the closing phrase in the pasuk, “He will repay him his due.” From the fact that Hashem promises to repay the charitable person, Rabbi Yochanan learnt that Hashem took upon himself to be a borrower.

In other words, this pasuk teaches us two things: Firstly, that Hashem “lends” the funds to a person who strives to help the poor in order that he will help the poor. And, secondly, not only does Hashem supply the money but after it is given, Hashem will repay the donor as if the donor lent his own money to Hashem!

Zera Shimshon asks: According to Rabbi Yochanan, that one who gives tzedaka to someone needy is considered as if he lent money to Hashem, how can Hashem reward him for doing this mitzvah? Why isn’t the reward that he receives in addition to the money that he gave to the poor person not considered ribbis, interest?

He answers—in light of a halacha written in Tur (Yoreh Deah 160:17)—that although it is prohibited to lend money with interest, there are certain situations where talmidei chachamim, are allowed to lend to other talmidei chachamim and receive more than they gave. The reason for this is because they are aware and understand the severity of giving and taking interest so they, therefore, give the “extra” as a present and not as interest. This means, the poskim explain, that they will give this “bakshish” even if—for some reason—the loan doesn’t go through.

This is not a blanket heter, however, but is permitted only if the interest given is minimal, the interest is food and not money and it cannot be fixed interest—meaning that the lender and borrower did not set the amount of interest before the loan was given. In a case where all three of these conditions are met, talmidei chachamim can lend each other, even though the lender receives more than he gave.

One more source: It is written in Pirkei Avos (1:3): “ … Do not be like servants who serve the master in the expectation of receiving a reward, but be like servants who serve the master without the expectation of receiving a reward.”

According to this, even though that giving tzedaka is like giving a loan to Hashem—since the person gave the tzedaka with no expectations for any reward, like we learnt in Pirkei Avos that this is the proper way to do a mitzvah—therefore, the reward that Hashem does give him is like a present and not ribbis on the loan.

In addition to this, no matter how great a reward Hashem gives, any reward that is given in this world is minimal, compared to the real reward in Olam Haba—like it is written in Pirkei Avos, one hour of satisfaction in Olam Haba is better than all of the pleasures in this world.

Chazal also calls reward in this world, peiros (fruits) of the mitzvah that a person performed.

The reward the person receives for giving tzedaka is a gift, is minimal and is called “fruit of his labor” and, therefore, just like talmidei chachamim who can get more than they give and, when they fulfill these conditions it is not considered ribbis; so too, the reward that Hashem gives for giving tzedaka is also not considered ribbis!

 

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