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An Interesting Question

Yesterday I met a good friend from the States in the Old City. He told me that he doesn't have to be back at work on Monday because he has off for Labor Day. Which got me thinking. Shouldn't people be WORKING on Labor Day. Or at least call it Non-Labor Day?! The Torah says to labor for six days and Saturday is the day on which all labor ceases. Shabbos is not called "Labor Day."

Anyway, that is not the main topic. What I wanted to discuss is the following question. The Shulchan Aruch [Yoreh Deah 160/22] teaches us something that seems so obvious that it is apparently a waste of good ink. If ones life is in danger [known in the vernacular as Pikuach Nefesh - no relation to Nefesh B'Nefesh] one is allowed to lend money with interest ["Ribbis" - sounds like a word that an Ashkenazi frog would say] in order to save himself. "Muttar l'halvos b'ribbis bimakom pikuch nefesh". But I would have known that on my own! Every mitzva is pushed aside in order to save a life [excluding the three cardinal sins]. Human life is of the highest value. So why did the Shulchan Aruch find it necessary to teach us this law specifically regarding interest when it equally applies to every other mitzva? There must be something that he is teaching us that we don't already know.

What is the chiddush? An interesting question.

1) I believe it's Yoreh Deah 160:22 not 21
2) I saw the Taz who says there's no chiddush, the statement was originally meant simply to explain a story.

From a completely non-halachic standpoint...

There's almost nothing that really hurts a person like interest. Interest's impact over time is astounding, and people in serious debt (say, credit card debt) have incredible difficulties keeping up with the interest. It could be that it would be viewed almost as killing a person to take interest from them - figure that a person who needs to borrow money is often strapped for it, and tacking interest onto whatever they now owe just makes it that much harder for them to get out of the debt.

Thank you beisrunner for th corrction and answer and thanks Ezzie for the comment. Chazal say that interest is called "neshech" because like a bite it BLOWS UP.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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