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Knock, knock. The man opens the front door. Standing before him is his brother, Meir.
"Meir! I haven't seen you in a long time! How are you?"
"Not so good, Chezi."
"Oy vey! What is the matter?"
"I'm having problems with parnassa (livelihood)."
"Really? What happened?"
"I had a good job, but I was laid off. I managed to find another job. It was going well; however, yesterday I received a note from my boss."
"Yes. I lost this job too. I could look for another one. At my age the possibilities are slim."
"You are not an old man, Meir. You are a dedicated hard worker."
"I realize that, Chezi. However, the job market is tough. I would like to start my own business."
"What would you do?"
"I have always been good with my hands. I would like to get into home repairs. I know that a good, reliable repairman is hard to find."
"I agree, Meir."
"I went to the bank for a loan to help me start the business. I need to buy tools, and I need help covering the family expenses until my income increases. The bank charges 10% interest for small business loans. They also require a lot of paperwork, collateral, and guarantors. I just cannot manage all of that." "I understand, Meir."
"After the bank, I went to a money lender. He wanted an even higher interest rate. If I do not quickly succeed in my business, I will have to borrow more money to pay off this loan. The interest will just keep building up and up and I will be working just to pay interest. It is a vicious cycle. I don't want to get involved."
"I agree, Meir."
"That is why I am coming to you, Chezi. Perhaps you can lend me the money. B'ezrat Hashem you will help me stay afloat until I can stand on my own two feet."
Chezi smiles warmly and gives his brother a big hug.
"I will lend you the money, Meir. We grew up together. We played together. We helped each other in school. We have shared the good times and hard times together our whole lives. We are from the same flesh and blood! Of course, I will help you. I am your brother!"
The Torah states, "If your brother becomes poor…you shall strengthen him…Do not take interest from him…let your brother live with you." (Vayikra 25:35-37). The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 66) explains that lending to a poor person ingrains within us the middos (good character traits) of chessed (kindness) and rachamim (compassion). Why not charge ribbis (interest) on the loan? Because ribbis will ultimately make the borrower even poorer. He will lose his possessions paying off the ribbis (Mitzvah 68). The verse refers to the downtrodden Jew who needs a loan as "your brother" (Vayikra 25:35, Devarim 23:20). Would a person ever refuse to do a kind act for his brother? His own flesh and blood? Finally, the Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 573) points out that Hashem loves us. One reason is that we serve Him by keeping His Torah and mitzvos. He loves us, therefore, we should love each other, and be kind to each other by lending money without interest.
Kinderlach . . .
Did you get a nice gift of money for your birthday? Did you make a little money working during the vacation? What will you do with it? Do you want to put it to good use? Lend it to a gemach - an organization that lends money to Jews - interest free. You may say to yourself, "I can get interest when I deposit in the bank. Here I get no interest." True, but just think about your brother who needs help. He may have lost his job, he may have medical expenses, or his home may need major repairs. He needs you. Who else can he turn to but you, his own brother? Hashem promises great rewards for those who help their brothers. Kinderlach, lend your money to a gemach, and earn much more than interest: prosperity in this world, and schar (reward) in the World to Come.
"Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai saying, '…the land shall rest for Hashem'" (Vayikra 25:1-2). Rashi asks the famous question, "How is Shmitta (the Sabbatical year) related to Har Sinai?" The Keli Yakar has a novel answer to this question. Shmitta and Har Sinai are similar in many ways. Moshe Rabbeinu went up to Har Sinai after counting seven weeks (49 days) from Yetzias Mitzraim. So too, Shmitta is once every seven years, and Yovel is after seven Shmittas (49 years). Har Sinai became holy, and it was forbidden to plow and plant there. Similarly, these melachos are forbidden during the Shmitta and Yovel years, due to the holiness of the Land of Israel. The Shofar sounded during the Yovel year just as it sounded during the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai. At that time, Hashem taught Moshe Rabbeinu about the Shmitta and Yovel years. They were imbued with holiness just as Har Sinai was. The air of the Land of Israel imparts wisdom, just as Har Sinai did. There is no Torah like the Torah learned in the Land of Israel. So too, there is no Torah like the Torah learned at Har Sinai.
We are approaching Shavuos, the time of the giving of the Torah. We know how holy Har Sinai was. There we were shown that Hashem is G-d and there is no One besides Him (Devarim 4:35). All of the heavens opened for us. The Keli Yakar is telling us that the Land of Israel has the same holiness. Let us all try to appreciate that holiness.
Kinderlach . . .
Many Jews are very fortunate to live in the Land of Israel. Let us all try to appreciate its holiness. We can learn the halachos of Shmitta. We can learn the halachos of other mitzvos that can only be performed in the Land of Israel, such as trumah and maaser. We can strengthen the observance of these mitzvos. And we can prepare ourselves for the giving of the Torah this Shavuos.
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