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  • Yehuda Pevzner

Gaining Interest

A farmer was once offered a high salary to perform his daily farm techniques in the comfort of the palace. After swinging his empty pitchfork for an entire hour, he collected his ten rubles - much more than his usual salary for a full week of hard work. But the next day, his enthusiasm diminished slightly. At the end of a few days, he informed the nobleman that he wished to leave his new job.

The nobleman said to him: "I do not understand. Why do you prefer to work hard outside, in the moody weather, when you can perform such an easy task in my comfortable home and earn much more than your usual salary"?

"But, sir," the farmer told him, "I do not see the work."

The Torah explicitly forbids taking or paying interest on a loan given between two Jews. However, there is a procedure in which it is permissible to make a profit from such an exchange. In the agreement, it states that the money is not a loan but an investment in a joint business initiative. In the case of a loan, the money no longer belongs to the lender. Any losses that occur belong to the borrower, not to the lender and therefore, the lender should not gain from the transaction, either. In a joint initiative, the money remains in the ownership of the lender and is allowed to make a profit out of it.

This can seem like a cop out to avoid a clear prohibition from the Torah but the Rebbe explains that G-d, too, behaves in this manner.

Life is not a pointless “free lunch” here to mock us. Life takes real work - a work by which we earn the blessings it creates, and which has real impact and real meaning.

If G-d gave us the Torah and Mitzvos without the ability to enjoy it, only He would benefit from our actions. That would be like one lending another money and taking interest from it. The recipient of the loan can not fully enjoy the money, knowing he needs to pay it back with interest. But when the borrower comes into a joint partnership with the owner, they both stand to benefit. Likewise, Hashem created the world in a way that allows us to enjoy the Mitzvos, to understand them and to forge a connection with Him, through them, thus creating a partnership with G-d.

Candle lighting time: 4:51

Shabbat Shalom!


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