Parshas Mishpatim 5777
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February 24, 2017
Volume 13 Issue 15
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Dvar Torah

Thoughtful Chessed
 By Rabbi Yedidya Kaganoff
In this week's Torah Portion, Mishpatim, the Torah instructs us regarding lending money to our fellow in need. The Torah states, "When you lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you, do not act toward him as a creditor. Do not lay interest upon him. If you take your fellow's garment as security until sunset, you shall return it to him. For it alone is his clothing, it is his garment for his skin - in what should he lie down?  So it will be if he cries out to Me. I shall listen, for I am compassionate." On superficial analysis, these mitzvos seem  fairly straightforward. However, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz derives a very important insight about the Torah's attitude towards chesed (kindness) from these verses.

This passage deals with a person who fulfills the great kindness of helping his friend by lending him money, and yet the Torah gives him a number of mitzvos to ensure that he perform this chesed in the most optimal way. It is instructive to analyze these verses more carefully to note their common theme. "Do not act toward him as a creditor." Rashi, based on the Mechilta, explains that this means if the lender knows that the borrower is, at present, unable to pay back the loan, then the lender should not make him feel pressured about it. Rather, he should behave as if the loan never took place, so as not to embarrass the borrower. "Do not lay interest upon him." This refers to the prohibition of lending money with interest (ribbis).

Furthermore, Rav Shmuelevitz cites a number of Rabbinic sources that emphasize the seriousness of lending with interest. It is clear that even one who lends with a small amount of interest is doing a great chesed to the borrower, who is in urgent need of money immediately and is prepared to pay more interest. Nonetheless the Torah treats the lender very strictly. "If you take your fellow's garment as security until sunset, you shall return it to him." When the borrower is unable to pay back the loan the lender is permitted to take his personal items as collateral to ensure payment of the loan. However, he must return the items when they are needed by the borrower. For example, clothing is needed in the daytime. Therefore, the lender may only keep it in the night and must return it in the day so that the borrower can use it. This law seems to nullify the whole function of collateral, for if the borrower can still use it when he needs it, he may be far less motivated to pay back the loan. Nonetheless, the Torah demands that the lender respect the borrower's basic needs.
Rav Shmuelevitz explains that the common denominator of these laws is that they stress the importance of doing chesed in as complete a manner as possible, without lessening the effect of the chesed. Consequently, even though it is a great mitzvah to lend money, the lender must be extremely careful not to diminish the effect of his kindness through pressuring the borrower in any fashion. Rav Shmuelevitz says further that the greater a person's appreciation of the importance of chesed, the more strictly he is treated when he fails to act according to his recognition. Thus, one who lends and yet charges interest is treated particularly harshly because he appreciates the value of helping the borrower, and nonetheless chooses to charge interest. We learn from the mitzvos relating to lending money that when a person is doing a chesed for his fellow it is essential that he strive to maximize the positive effect of his chesed and not let it be tainted in any way. This applies in many instances in our daily lives. Very often a person is approached to do a favor. He may agree to do it, but with a reluctance that makes the person in need feel uncomfortable about inconveniencing him. Rather, the giver should strive to be as positive as possible about helping his friend. This greatly enhances the actual positive benefit because, as well as being helped, the person in need is not made to feel guilty about his request. Similarly when one gives to charity he can do it with a smile or with a sour face. The Gemara tells us that one who gives with simcha receives no less than 17 brachos for his mitzvah, whereas one who gives unenthusiastically only receives 6 brachos. One who performs an act of kindness with a lack of enthusiasm greatly diminishes the effect of his kindness. May we all merit to help others in the most effective way possible.

Dvar Halacha
Laws of Borer part 6
By  Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi

We have learned previously that in order to avoid violating the melachah of borer one needs to separate with the following three conditions: 1) you must separate the item you want from the item you do not want [good from bad], 2) it must be for immediate use, and 3) you can only use your hand as opposed to a utensil.

If, however, one does not fulfill all three of the above conditions, even if he has fulfilled the one or two of them, he has violated the melachah (see Shulchan Aruch 319:1). For instance, if one separates items using a utensil that is designed to separate (e.g. a sieve, funnel, strainer, colander), even though he removed the good from the bad with the intent of immediate use, since he was lacking in the third condition, he has violated the melachah. This begs an obvious question: if one may only use his hand to separate, how can one ever use a kli [e.g. a knife or a fork] to separate?

The Poskim (Shu"T Igros Moshe OC 1:124, Shu"T Minchas Yitzchok 1:71) explain the prohibition is only if one uses a kli that assists and creates a more effective sorting; however, if he could have sorted just as well without the utensil, then the utensil is considered merely as an extension of his hand and permitted. He is just using a kli either because he does not want to get his hands dirty or it is too far to reach with his hands.
Accordingly, there is no blanket rule which specific utensil is always permitted or always prohibited, rather it all depends on whether you could have sorted just as well with your hand or not. For example, the Shulchan Aruch (319:14) rules it is permitted to pour wine away from the dregs in the bottle of the bottle and the Mishneh Berurah [319:55] explains the Shulchan Aruch is only talking about a scenario where one plans on not using the wine immediately, for if he intends to use it immediately, he would be sorting "the normal way of eating", which is permitted. It is clear that even though he is using a kli (the pitcher) to separate, since he technically could have separated the wine just as well, the pitcher is considered "an extension" of his hand.

Consequently, one may use a fork to select the food he wants from a mixture, since in this case the utensil being used is no more instrumental in the selection than he could have done with his own hand. Similarly, a person can use a spoon to remove solids from liquids [e.g. vegetables from soup], since the spoon is not doing a better job of sorting. If, however, there is only a small amount of noodles, etc. remaining in the soup, since such a small quantity cannot be easily removed with one's hands, to use a spoon or fork to remove them would be assisting a person to separate in a better fashion and would thus be prohibited (Shu"T Igros Moshe OC 1:124).

On a similar note, one may use a knife to peel fruits or vegetables even if the knife is separating in a more efficient way than one could do with his hands, since it is absolutely natural to peel fruit with a knife during the meal, so this is considered derech achilah (Zachor V'Shamor pg. 288).

Additionally, one may use the rim of a pot to strain soup from undesired noodles or vegetables, by tilting the pot so that the soup slowly runs over, since as a straining device the rim of the pot will not strain better then one's hand (Shu"T Igros Moshe OC 1:124). However, according to most Poskim, using a pot cover by pouring soup from a pot using both the pot and the lid is similar to a strainer and therefore prohibited (Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l [Shu"T Igros Moshe OC 1:74:1, Shmiras Shabbos K'Hilchisa).


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