Parashas Mishpatim

One segment of this week’s parashah deals with lending money, especially to the poor, and not taking interest. The Torah states (Shemos 22:24): “When you lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you, do not act toward him as a pursuing creditor; do not lay interest upon him.” The Midrash expounds (Shemos Rabbah 31:14):
Come and see: Anyone who lends with interest commits all the transgressions described in the Torah, and he cannot find anyone to raise points in his defense. What does this mean? When a person commits a sin and stands in judgment before the Holy One Blessed Be He, angels are present, some raising points in his defense and some raising points of indictment. As it is written (Divrei HaYamim Beis 18:18): “I saw Hashem sitting on His throne, and all the heavenly hosts were standing to His right and to His left.” But for someone who lends to a Jew with interest, none of them raise points in his defense, as it is written (Yechezkel 18:13): “[If he] lends with usury and takes interest, should he live? He shall not live!”
The Maggid sets out to explain this Midrash. He builds on another Midrash that follows right afterward, which expounds as follows (Shemos Rabbah 18:15):
Come and see how all the Holy One Blessed Be He’s creations borrow from each other. The day borrows from the night, and the night from the day, and they do not litigate against each other as men do. … The moon borrows from the stars and the stars from the moon …. Light borrows from the sun, and the sun from light …. The Holy One Blessed Be He’s creations borrow from each other and make peace with each other without taking interest. But with man, one lends to another and seeks to swallow him up with interest and theft.
A person who lends with interest, the Maggid explains, is the type of person who will not do anything for someone else unless he will gain some benefit in return. In the heavenly court, they deal with him in the same way, in line with our Sages’ teaching that “with the same kind of measure that a person measures with, they measure out for him” (Mishnah Sotah 1:7). The angels could help him and raise points in his defense, but they hold back from providing him a benefit for free, just as he was unwilling to provide someone else a benefit for free.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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