Parashat Mishpatim - Loans
By: Rav Yuval Cherlow
A new evil is seeping into our spiritual world, that evil is the fact that getting loans has become the simplest task. These loans are in fact "placing an obstacle to a blind man" in the most literal sense. For very few these loans are essential, and thank god they exist, but for many these loans are a great temptation - to consume much more than they can afford, believing that they will find a way to pay it back. The damage is twofold: the excessive consumption which is very addictive and incorruptible degrades the man to damage himself and the world, and the risk of no repayment ability resulting in an economic collapse. The banks nowadays have a new policy of granting loans to almost anyone, without careful consideration of collateral and repayment capacity, as part of the competition and the economic considerations of profit vs. risk.
This is not the way of the Torah. Loans are intended to resolve distress. This week's Parasha suggests that a loan is intended for the poor that cannot exist without it. Therefore, the Torah commands to lend him, forbids taking interest, requires us not to be a creditor, and at the end of the seventh year a person is required to drop off his debts. These loans are like Tzdka, and a degree of grace is to give them consumed. Chamim even require us to do so, so they fixed regulations in order not to block the door before those who want to loan to the needy. When it comes to business loans, it's certainly worthy, which is the basis of the famous "Heter Iska". However, loans for consumption and the pursuit of luxury are flawed and offensive loans from every direction in which you look at it - from the fact that they cultivate materialism and eagerness, to environmental damage that takes place in the world due to over-consumption.
We need to restore the world of loans to its rightful place. It's very nice that our world has Gmhim, and other plants that lend a person in need money, and sometimes there is no greater charity, since the loans are recycled, and any person who gives money to Gmahim enables the making of loans over and over again; civil courts are emerging among us (this is another opportunity to call the public to lean on them needed, because they are actually doing "Vel'e Hamishpatim") and they also play a big role in the loan business: they need to instill the realization that the word "interest" does not go hand in hand with loans and in fact it is forbidden, and only when it comes to actual transactions there is a permit for interest. Lots of laws and rules will extend the practice that loans should not be taken for consumption purposes; we rabbis have to continue lowering the standards of the celebrations, especially weddings, which are the main reason for the economic burden that families have because they are pushed to take loans that are barely returnable ; we also are called to encourage the making of basic life insurance to people so their burden doesn't fall on the public, and not require the taking of loans in distress - these are all ways that lead in the end to economic freedom.
As we deal with the uniqueness of Israeli culture we are called to engage the fundamental questions of our economic culture. Israel is not opposed to economic welfare it supports it, and does not prohibit a person of improving their quality of life. However, it directs him to live according to his economic ability, not enslave himself to a certain thing. In Mishli it says that "man is accompanied by a borrower worked" - person who takes a loan is in fact a slave. An integral part of freedom is freedom from loans, and a person should not be in need for these loans. Although it says "loan me, and I will return it", but many have already written that it is not permitted to borrow in order to raise the standard of living. When you add to this not only the virtues of frugality, but also the responsibility of the entire world, we learn that we cannot use a tool created to redeem poor terrible misery for the pursuit of pampering and luxury.