Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 22   No. 45

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Menuchah bas Boruch Zvi Mordechai a"h, l'ibcl
on her twentieth Yohrzeit (13th Elul)
t.n.tz.v.h.

Parshas Ki Seitzei

Matters of Interest
(Adapted from the Ramban)

"Do not give interest to your brother …interest of money, of food, interest of anything that he may take as interest. You may/shall give interest to a gentile, but not to your brother, in order that Hashem your G-d will bless you …" (23:20).

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Unlike other issues concerning money matters, comments the Ramban, the Torah forbids the borrower to give interest (Ribis), just as it forbids the lender to take it. Take damages, for example. Reuven is forbidden to damage Shimon's property, but (aside from the Aveirah of 'bal tashchis' - destroying something that is useful, which some maintain is only an Isur de'Rabanan), there is no prohibition against damaging his own property.

The Ramban attributes this to the fact that lending on interest is more common that damaging and other money-connected sins.

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Moreover, he points out, Ribis, unlike stealing, for example, is permitted in one's dealings with a gentile. This, he explains, is due to the fact that unlike robbery, one gives Ribis with the agreement of both parties, which is only forbidden from one Jew to another because it clashes with the concept of Tzedakah and the love that one Jew is expected to display towards another. As the Torah writes "You shall love your fellow-Jew like yourself". But this is not applicable towards a non-Jew. Stealing from a gentile on the other hand, is forbidden due to the Chilul Hashem involved. And the same logic applies to the cancelation of debts following the Sh'mitah, which applies to money owed by a Jew, but not by a non-Jew. Indeed, it is because of the Tzedakah aspect involved in cancelling the debt of a Jew that the Torah (in Parshas Re'ei, 15:4) prescribes a B'rachah to those who adhere to it - something that we do not find in connection with someone who fulfils the Mitzvah of not stealing, or cheating in money matters.

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And the Torah specifically mentions Ribis in connection with food independently, says the Ramban, to teach us that lending a Sa'ah of wheat for one and a half Sa'ah is considered Ribis.

This applies even if the price of wheat has dropped to the point that the one and a half Sa'ah at the time of payment is worth no more than the Sa'ah at the time when the loan took place.

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And it is to dispel the notion that Ribis is restricted to money, which is commonly used to purchase, and to food, which affects man's livelihood, but not to other commodities, the author explains, that the Torah adds "interest of anything …", to incorporate even things such as stones of a building. They too, are subject to the Isur of Ribis.

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Finally, commenting on the concession to allow Ribis to a gentile, the Ramban explains that it is not a Mitzvah to give to or to take Ribis from him (as the Rambam understands). It is rather a concession, and comes to add an Asei to lending a Jew on interest (to a gentile you may give but not to a fellow-Jew).

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A parting thought: The Torah inserts the word 'brother' here - as it does in connection with returning a lost article and helping him to reload his donkey (22:2,3 &4) , to remind us that a fellow-Jew is considered a brother, and that one should be ready to lend him a helping hand when necessary - without charging interest (any more than one would charge one's brother interest on a loan).

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ramban)

Eishes Y'fas To'ar

"And you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you desire her, you may take her as a wife" (21:11).

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Rashi explains that the Torah is only countering the Yeitzer ha'Ra, because (due to the tensions of war), Hashem knows that if He doesn't permit it, he will marry her without permission.

Based on the words "and you desire her", the Ramban extrapolates from this that this is not a blanket concession to live with a gentile woman, and is permitted only if the soldier is filled with desire for her. Indeed, by the same token, Chazal forbid him to take her for his father or for his son.

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Before Marriage or after Marriage?

" … and after that (the thirty-day preparatory period) you may have relations with her and she shall become your wife" (21:14).

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Quoting the Sifri, the Ramban explains that the soldier is permitted to be intimate with the captive (just this once) - even though she is a gentile - but not to betroth her with money or with a document (in the way that one betroths a Jewish woman). This concession fits well with the reason that we mentioned in the previous Pearl (to counter the Yeitzer-ha'Ra) and is also the opinion of the Gemara in Kidushin (21b).

The Pesukim however, intimate that the captive remains forbidden until after the initial thirty days have passed, at which point he may live with her and she becomes his wife - and this, comments the Ramban, is the conclusion of the Yerushalmi in Sanhedrin (or in Makos). Note how, according to this latter opinion, the special concession lies, not in being intimate with a non-Jewish woman, but with the fact that he can convert her against her will.

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Returning a Lost Article

"Do not see the ox belonging to your brother or his lamb going astray and hide your eyes from it, you shall surely return it to him (hoshev teshivem). And so you shall do to his donkey, to his garment or to anything that he loses" (22:1 & 3).

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The Torah adds "his lamb", the Ramban explains, because lambs tend to get lost quite easily (perhaps we would have thought that a lamb going astray is therefore considered negligence on the owner's part, and one ought therefore not to be obligated to return it. Or perhaps one would be absolved from returning it since unlike an ox, it needs to be carried on one's shoulders [See Rashi in Mishpatim, 21:37]).

And it adds "his donkey" - even though it is a non-Kaher animal, his garment, even though a person is not generally as attached to it as one is to one's animal, and "anything … ", even though his attachment to them is minimal.

*

Among the other things that Chazal learn from these Pasukim, the Ramban concludes, is 1. That under certain circumstances, a finder is permitted to turn a blind eye, as it were, and leave the lost article where it is - for example, a dignified person who finds a sack of potatoes (something that he would not walk around with if it were his own) - which Chazal learn from the unusual format including the phrase "and hide your eyes from it", and 2. That it will suffice to place the found article in the owner's garden or yard (provided it is safe there - which they learn from the double expression "hoshev teshivem".

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A Mitzvah to Remember

"Remember what G-d did to Miriam …" (24:9)

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The Ramban disagrees with Rashi who interprets this as a sound piece of advice; if you want to avoid contracting Tzara'as (for speaking Lashon ha'Ra), remember that that is precisely what happened to Miriam, when she spoke out against Moshe.

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No, he argues, when the Torah uses the word "remember", it means that it is a Mitzvah to do so - just as it is with regard to remembering the Exodus from Egypt, Shabbos and Amalek.

It is the Asei that goes with the La'av "Beware of the plague of Tzara'as" (in the previous Pasuk). And what's more, he points out, the word "Zochor" implies, not just in the heart, but verbally.

Note how Miriam spoke about the brother whom she loved - without malice, not in his presence - so that he should not be embarrassed by her criticism, and only to her brother Aharon but not in public, From here we learn that Lashon ha'Ra - which is compared to the three cardinal sins (murder, idolatry and adultery) is forbidden even in secret, and even where one has not the least intention of causing harm.

*

On the other hand, the fact that the total lack of aggression on the part of Miriam did not spare her from the public humiliation that she subsequently had to endure when she was smitten with Tzara'as, should serve as a severe warning to those who speak Lashon ha'Ra against others without the sensitivity that she displayed.

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