Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Parshat Mishpatim, 3rd Portion, Exodus 22:4-26, February 2, 2016

I’ve been leaking today. That’s when I’m reacting. First someone said they were going to bring their cute little puppy to our group meetings... and I felt we had enough going on so I complained.

Then I read in this portion that “When you lend money to My people, to the poor person [who is] with you, you shall not behave toward him as a lender; you shall not impose interest upon him.” (Exodus 22:24) If the dog didn’t push my button, then this did.

Rashi wrote that this lending is obligatory. It is not the “if” that the Hebrew word sometimes designates. And it says that you should not act as a lender (requesting to be paid back?) and... and... you should charge no interest.

Then a friend writes and says that the Torah and the Talmud are capitalist. Sounds more like Bernie Sanders to me.

According to the mishna, if an Israelite and a gentile ask for a loan, and you have just enough to give to one, you should give to the Israelite, even though the gentile is willing to pay interest (that you would not charge the Isrealite).

Buttons pressed. And then I remembered a situation where I offered something to my daughter’s sister-in-law. It was to be a gift. She said to me, “I can’t use it, but I have a friend who can.” If I had been a good person, like Bernie Sanders (since he’s a topic these days), I would have said, “Oh, sweet, I hope they enjoy it.” But no, I said, “Well, it was just an offer to you. I’ll hang on to it.”

So I discriminated for one of my own people, so to speak, and against a stranger.

Yet, a few lines earlier the verse reads, “And you shall not mistreat a stranger, nor shall you oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:20) Having separate laws for strangers and Israelites seems like it would be a source of much ill-will. Strangers apparently are those born in another land, but are sojourning in your land.

I have a friend (probably more than one) who doesn’t agree that you should make money when you aren’t working. Collecting interest is an example of this. I imagine this scenario: you loan money to an Israelite without interest who turns around and loan money to a gentile with interest. How would you feel? Has he taken money out of your pocket?

Some say that Jesus threw out the moneychangers in the Temple because they were charging interest. Some say that Jesus wasn’t objecting so much to the money changing, but rather that it was being done in the temple. The temples then were giant entire communities that performed many functions, so I don’t know the final word on this.

Now I know why you shouldn’t discuss politics, religion, or maybe even dogs. The phenomena of certain things pressing our buttons is all that more interesting to me than the issues at hand.  Am I my beliefs, and have my beliefs been threatened? Would a more open-minded person have said, “Ok, I’ll try out having the dog join our group? And I’ll lend money without interest to “My” people (whoever they might be). And I won’t leak, ever again... I promise (until tomorrow).”

1 comment:

  1. dear Kim, This speaks to me right now. I gave away something I value and that had no more room for use for. the receiver felt he had been given a gift and wants to express his gratitude profusely. it is complicated. I truly needed to get rid of what I gave him and I was absolutely delighted that he valued what I gave. I am reading the Steohen Batchelor's book. I want to freely give this as a gift and want it to be received quietly. it felt like a gift to me too.joan


Thanks for commenting. One cannot study the Torah alone.