06 Sep PARSHAS KI SEITZEI
Remember that your Parnassah Comes from Hashem
Why does the Torah prohibit lending and borrowing money with ribis- interest?
One explanation is that the purpose of this mitzvah is to protect the borrower. As Rashi (Shemos 22:24) writes, “Ribis is like a snakebite (and therefore ribis is also called נשך†, bite). A snake bites and
makes a small wound on the foot, and one doesn’t feel anything. Suddenly, [the poison] travels up to the head. Ribis is similar: One doesn’t realize what’s happening, and eventually, the ribis devours all his money.”
The Chinuch (Mitzvah 68) elaborates on this idea: “Hashem desires the successful habitation of the nation whom He chose. Therefore, he commanded that we remove the obstacle from their ways so that one person shouldn’t swallow up the wealth of another without him realizing it, until his house is empty from all good. For that is the nature of ribis, as this is known, and therefore it is called [נשך
,like the bite of a snake]…”
The Kli Yakar offers another explanation for the prohibition of borrowing and lending with ribis. He explains that it is to help the lender retain his emunah and bitachon. He explains that lending money with ribis is a parnassah, which can cause the lender to forget to place his trust in Hashem.
He writes, “In all other businesses, one raises his eyes to Hashem because he isn’t certain whether he’ll earn or lose money. But, when one lends money and charges interest, his income is guaranteed. He isn’t concerned that he may lose the money he lent since he doesn’t lend money without collateral. Lending money with interest prevents him from developing bitachon… As it is known, those who lend money with ribis are usually stingy people who don’t give much tzedakah…”
The Megaleh Amukos zt’l let the people of Krakow know that he no longer wanted to be their rav, but he didn’t tell them the reason for his decision. Despite many pleas that he change his mind and stay with them, he remained†firm†in†his†decisionÆ
With a heavy heart, the community prepared a seudas preidah (goodbye party) for the Megaleh Amukos. At the celebration, the Megaleh Amukos announced that he will continue serving as the rav of Krakow.
The community was shocked and overjoyed simultaneously. Now they wanted to know (a) why he initially wanted to leave (b) and what caused his change of heart to remain with the kehilla? The Megaleh Amukos said, “I still won’t tell you why I wanted to leave, but I will tell you why I decided to stay:
A very unusual din Torah came to me. A wealthy person saw a pauper selling bread and bagels on the sidewalk, and he said to him, “I recognize you from years back! You are a great talmid chacham°†It†isn’t†befitting†for†you†to†sell†bread on the sidewalk. I will give you as much as you need to live each month so that you can learn Torah all day long in the beis medresh.
The pauper agreed to the generous offer.
Some time passed, and the wealthy person found the pauper on the street selling bread and bagels. “We have an agreement,” the wealthy man said. “Why are you here?” The pauper answered that he and his wife decided to go back to their previous lifestyle, earning their living by selling bread on the street corners.
“But why? Isn’t it better to earn your parnassah easily so that you can learn Torah? And besides, you can’t back down from an agreement without my consent,” the wealthy man added. “We had an agreement, and a deal is a deal.” They decided to ask the Megaleh Amukos. The Megaleh Amukos asked the pauper, “Why don’t you agree to this arrangement?”
The pauper replied, “Before I received this generous stipend, my wife and I would wake up in the morning, and immediately turn to Hashem, pleading that He help us earn a living. When we ground the wheat kernels, we prayed that the bread would be white and clean. When we kneaded the dough, we prayed that it should rise well. We also prayed that†I†should†find†dry†logs†to†heat†the†oven (as fresh wood smokes and ruins the bread). We prayed that the bread should bake well, that people should buy from us, and that they should be satisfied†with†their†purchases†so†that†they will buy from us again. When things went the way we wished, we praised Hashem for His kindness. From the beginning of the day until the end, we were constantly communicating and connecting to Hashem. But all of this stopped abruptly when we began receiving a monthly stipend. We weren’t turning to Hashem anymore, because we knew that we will have everything we need. My wife and I decided that we don’t want to live that way. We prefer going back to our old lifestyle because then Hashem will always be on our mind and in our prayers.”
The Megaleh Amukos said to the community, “After this din Torah, I decided that I wanted to remain here, in this city, to be among such Yidden!”
Do the Best You Can
This week’s parashah discusses the laws of a ומורה†סורר†בן†,which is a boy
who doesn’t listen to his parents, and he eats a lot of meat, and he drinks a lot of wine. He is killed in the beis din, as Rashi (21:18) explains, “The Torah looked at how this boy will turn out to be in the end. He will use up his father’s money, and he will seek [the meat and wine] that he is accustomed to, but he won’t have it. So he will stand by the fork in the road and rob from people. The Torah says, “it is better that he should die when he is still innocent, than that he should [be killed in beis din] when he is guilty.”
There is an opinion in the Gemara that throughout history, there was never a ben sorer u’moreh and there never will be. We can explain that this is because we don’t lose hope in anyone. Even if a child†has†a†difficult†beginning†©like†the†bad habits of the ben sorer u’moreh) we trust that there is hope for him. He can yet do teshuvah. Therefore, we don’t kill him because we are certain he will sin severely in the future. No, it isn’t certain at all.
Therefore, the parashah begins, When you go out to war…”That is man’s mission in life – to battle a war against the yetzer hara. Even if the yetzer hara is winning, we don’t give up, and in the end, we will succeed.
The ben sorer u’moreh, rebellious child, is killed, not because of his present actions, rather because of where his actions will lead him to. He is in the process of falling from level to lower level, until he will commit very severe crimes. The same (only in contrast) can be said about someone who is in the process of doing teshuvah. His ways are not perfect yet, but he is on the path of growth, and eventually, he will succeed. Baalei mussar tell the following mashal:
A king would visit the homes of very simple people of his land for ten days each year, so he would be able to understand their needs. Thirty days before the visit, he sent out a letter to the people whom he planned to visit. This gave them time to prepare their homes for this royal privilege.
One year, an old, childless couple received the letter. In thirty days, the king will visit them. The husband said to his wife, “How can we bring the king into our home? The walls are black; they weren’t painted for years. All the windows in our home are broken. Each one of the four legs of our table is different from one another. And only our family knows how to sit on our chairs without falling off them. How can we bring the king here? This is what we have to do: We will hire carpenters to renovate our home. One will paint the walls, another will†fix†the†windows¨†and†we†will†buy†a†new set of table and chairs…”
His wife said, “For the past thirty years I told you that we have to do all that and you kept saying that we can’t afford it. So how can you afford it now?”
The husband replied, “We will borrow money from a neighbor.” The wife said, “Are you going into debt that will take thirty years to pay back just for a half-hour visit from the king? Why do we have to hide our poverty? Let the king see how we live. Are you embarrassed about our lifestyle?”
The husband replied, “I would agree with you if the king made a surprise visit to our home. I wouldn’t be embarrassed by my poverty. But now that the king gave us thirty days to prepare, we must do what we can to make†our†home†fitting†for†his†visitÆ”
His wife disagreed. “The king knows we are poor. He doesn’t want us to go into debt for the rest of our lives for this visit. We will cover the walls with white sheets. We will put paintings in the windows, so the king won’t see that they are broken. We will cover the table with a tablecloth that goes down to the floorÆ†But†we†have†to†buy†at†least†one†chair, so the king can sit on it without falling off.”
The nimshal is: In Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, Hashem is בהמצאו†,near; He
comes to visit us! We are told about this visit thirty days beforehand so that we can prepare ourselves for this great visit. However, it is impossible to become pure and clear from sin in just one month. So what will we do? The answer is, we are not expected to do more than we can, but we are expected to make an honest effort to bring ourselves†to†a†place†fitting†to†host†the†King. And, like in the nimshal, at least one new chair was bought. We too should prepare at least one good kabbalah for the new year.