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Home -- Content: Series 7 (Laws) -- Translation: English -- Book: 1 (Tora) -- Part: 1 (Positive) -- Command: 197 -- Text
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The Sharia of Moses in the TORA
Part 1 - The 248 Positive Commandments of the Tora

197 - LENDING MONEY TO THE POOR


Exodus 22:25 -- "If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest.”
Deuteronomy 15:8-11 -- 8 “But you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. 9 Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, 'The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,' and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you. 10 You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. 11 For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.'”

While the laws of borrower and lender form the subject of complicated discussions in Rabbinic literature, Scripture in this commandment deals primarily with the alleviation of sheer poverty, “the Torah having expressly rebuked him that fails to lend to the poor, as it is said, Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart… and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing. (Deuteronomy 15:9)”*

* Mishneh Torah, Mishpatim, Hilchoth Malveh Ve-Loveh I, 1

Moreover, he who withholds a loan from the poor in his hour of need becomes culpable in that he transgresses a negative commandment in addition to having neglected to fulfill a positive commandment. Thus, charitableness to a needy brother is a matter of extreme concern to Jews, affecting as it does the very fundamentals of the faith: “No one ever becomes impoverished by charity; nor may any evil or loss be occasioned by charity, as it is said, The work of righteousness will be peace (Isaiah 32:17). He who is merciful will draw upon himself mercy, as it is said, that the LORD may show you mercy, have compassion on you and multiply you (Deuteronomy 13:17); while he who is cruel, and shows no mercy, is of questionable lineage, inasmuch as cruelty is a special characteristic of idolaters, as it is said, They are cruel and shall not show mercy (Jeremiah 50:42) All Israel, on the contrary, and the followers of Israel (i.e. the proselytes), are in every sense like brothers, as it is said, You are the children of the LORD your God (Deuteronomy 14:1). Now if a brother has no mercy upon a brother, where shall mercy ever be found? And where shall the indigent of Israel turn? Shall they apply themselves to the idolaters, who despise them, and persecute them without cease? Their only hope rests with their own brothers. He that refuses charity is called base, even as he that worships idols is called base: for concerning him that worships idols it is said, Corrupt men have gone out from among you (Deuteronomy 13:13), and concerning him who refuses charity it is said, Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart (Deuteronomy 15:9); and he is further called wicked, as it is said, But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel (Proverbs 12:10); and again he is called a sinner, as it is said, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you. (Deuteronomy 15:9). The Holy One, blessed be He, is ever nigh unto the cry of the poor, as it is said, For He hears the cry of the afflicted. (Job 34:28) Hence heed should be taken lest they cry unto the Lord – a covenant being established between them and the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is said, And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious. (Exodus 22:27)”*

* Mishneh Torah, Zeraim, Hilchoth Matnoth Aniim X, 2-3

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