Re’eh – Shishi

Neither a Borrower Nor a Lender Be… Except for a Lender

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Here, Moshe reminds the Jews about the Sabbatical year, in which debts are canceled. The rule of reciprocity applies, so debts between Jews and non-Jews stand (since non-Jews are not obligated in the Sabbatical), but debts between Jews are voided. God will bless the ones who forgive their debts. If everyone would follow this, there would be no more poverty in Israel.

If only everyone would keep God’s laws, Moshe says, then He would bless them so much that no one would even need a loan! Israel would be able to lend to other nations, but they themselves wouldn’t need it. This would put them in a favorable position in the international community!

But, the reality is that people do need to borrow money and it’s a mitzvah to lend it to them. When the Sabbatical year is approaching, do not hesitate to lend out of fear that debts will be canceled. If the person who needs help complains to God about you, it will be a black mark on your record. Give freely, even though Shemittah is coming, and God will bless you in return. There will always be poor people, so never stop helping them out.

A Jewish person sold into servitude (from poverty or because he was sentenced by the courts) serves for six years. In the seventh year, he is released and he must not be sent away empty-handed. The freed slave is given a gift from the master’s livestock, grain and wine. We must treat servants properly because the Jews themselves were slaves in Egypt, so they should empathize!

If the servant likes his situation and wishes to stay, he has his ear pierced with an awl as a sign. He then works until the Jubilee year. Don’t grieve when it’s time to send your servant away – you had a good deal for a while, but there’s a time you have to just let go. God will bless you.

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