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Friday, February 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Mishpatim

This coming Sunday, 28 Shevat, marks the sixth yahrtzeit of my wife's grandfather, R' Yitzchak Yeres. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yitzchak Chaim ben Moshe Yosef.

Among the many monetary laws governing interactions between a Jew and his neighbour, we are introduced to some guidelines regarding loans. The section begins, (22:24) "im kesef talveh es ami." Very simply read, if you are to lend money to My people. As Ohr HaChayim quotes, Rabbi Yishmael states in the midrash (Mechilta) that all instances of the word im are to be translated as "if" and imply that what follows is optional. Our pasuk, however, is the one exception as it is to be understood as when, not if. We are required to lend money to a fellow Jew in need. Ohr HaChayim questions why, if this is meant to be mandatory, is the word im even used?

Ohr HaChayim offers a fascinating explanation. When one observes individuals who have been blessed with tremendous wealth well beyond their own needs, he might be led to question why HaShem would run the world in this way. Why isn't everyone provided exactly what they need? After all, Yaakov beseeched of HaShem only (Bereishis 28:20) "bread to eat and clothes to wear." But some people to do not merit to receive all of their allotted needs directly from HaShem. Rather, these provisions have been redirected to others such that he will have to be sustained indirectly, by the hand of Man.

This pasuk therefore teaches: im kesef – if you find yourself with an abundance of cash, more than you need for yourself, you should use the extra to provide for others because that is why you have been provided with this excess in the first place. (Gramatically, the pesik, vertical line, between the words kesef and talveh lend extra support for this approach.)

I found this idea to particularly pertinent to another recent current event. Howard Schultz, the Jewish former-CEO of Starbucks, recently announced that he is seriously considering running for President in 2020. Almost exactly 17 years ago, he published an article for in which he details an encounter he had with R' Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt"l, the Mir Rosh Yeshivah. He told the following Holocaust story:

"As they went into the area to sleep, only one person was given a blanket for every six. The person who received the blanket, when he went to bed, had to decide, 'Am I going to push the blanket to the five other people who did not get one, or am I going to pull it toward myself to stay warm?'"

And Rabbi Finkel says, "It was during this defining moment that we learned the power of the human spirit, because we pushed the blanket to five others."

And with that, he stood up and said, "Take your blanket. Take it back to America and push it to five other people."

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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