Malveh veLoveh - Chapter 1
HILCHOT MALVEH V'LOVEH
THE LAWS PERTAINING TO LENDERS AND BORROWERS
They contain twelve mitzvot: four positive commandments and eight negative commandments. They are:
1) to lend to a poor and destitute person;
2) not to press him for collection;
3) to press a gentile for collection of a debt he owes;
4) not to forcibly take collateral from a borrower;
e to return collateral to its owner when he requires it;
5) not to delay giving the collateral to the poor man who owns it when he requires it;
6) not to take collateral from a widow;
7) not to take utensils used to prepare food as collateral;
8) that a lender should not loan at interest;
9) that a borrower should not take a loan given at interest;
10) that no one should be involved with the lender and the borrower of a loan given at interest - not to serve as a witness between them, not to draw up a promissory note, nor to serve as a guarantor;
11) to borrow and lend money to a gentile at interest.
These mitzvot are explained in the following chapters.
It is a positive commandment to lend money to the poor among Israel, as Exodus 23:24 states: "If you will lend money to My nation, to the poor among you." Lest one think that this is a matter left to the person's choice, it is also stated Deuteronomy 15:8: "You shall certainly loan to him."
This mitzvah surpasses the mitzvah of charity given to a poor person who asks for alms. For the latter person had already been compelled to ask, and this one has not yet sunk that low. Indeed, the Torah is very severe with regard to a person who does not lend money to a poor person, stating Ibid.:9: "Beware lest there be a defiant thought in your heart... and you look badly upon your poor brother and you not give him."
Whenever a person presses a poor person for payment when he knows that he does not have the means to repay the debt, he transgresses a negative commandment, as Exodus 22:24 states: "Do not act as a creditor toward him." It is, by contrast, a positive mitzvah to press a gentile for payment and to cause him exasperation, as Deuteronomy 15:3 states: "Press a gentile for payment." According to the Oral Tradition, we have learned that this is a positive commandment.
It is forbidden for one to appear before a person who owes him money when he knows that the debtor does not have the means to repay the debt. It is even forbidden to pass before him, lest one frighten him or embarrass him, even though one does not demand payment. Needless to say, this applies if he demands payment.
Just as it is forbidden for a creditor to demand payment; so, too, it is forbidden for a lender to withhold money that he possesses due a colleague, telling him: "Go and return," as Proverbs 3:28 states: "Do not tell your colleague: 'Go and return.'"
Similarly, it is forbidden for a lender to take a loan and use it when it is unnecessary and lose it, leaving his creditor without a source to collect the debt. This applies even if the owner is very wealthy. A person who acts in this way is wicked, as Psalms 37:21 states: "A wicked man borrows and does not pay." Our Sages commanded: "Treat money belonging to your colleague as dearly as your own."
When a lender demands payment of a loan - even if he is wealthy and the borrower is in a pressing situation and struggles to support his family - we are not merciful in judgment. Instead, we expropriate all the movable property" that the person owns to pay the last penny of the debt. If the movable property he owns is not sufficient, we expropriate the landed property after issuing a ban of ostracism against any person who possesses movable property or knows of movable property he possesses and does not bring it to court.
We expropriate all the landed property the borrower possesses, even if it is on lien to the ketubah of the borrower's wife or to another creditor with a prior lien. We expropriate it for this creditor. If ultimately, the person with the prior lien will come to claim the property, he may expropriate it from the creditor to whom it was given.
If the lender claims that the movable property in his domain does not belong to him, but instead was entrusted to him, rented by him, or lent to him, we do not heed his words. He must prove his statements or the property will be expropriated by the creditor.
A creditor may not collect his due by expropriating the wardrobe of the debtor's wife or his sons, not from colored garments that were dyed for them even though they have not worn them yet, nor from new sandals that were purchased for them. These belong to the wife and the children themselves. When does the above apply? With regard to their weekday garments. The creditor may, by contrast, expropriate their Sabbath and festival garments. Needless to say, if they own rings or golden or silver ornaments, they must all be given to the creditor.
The following rules apply when a borrower owned movable property or landed property, but also had outstanding promissory notes owed to gentiles. If he says: "All of my property is on lien to gentiles; if Jews take the property as payment for their debts, the gentiles will imprison me because of the debts I owe them, and I will be in captivity," my teachers have ruled that his words are not heeded, and the Jews are granted the right to expropriate his property. If the gentiles come and imprison him, all of Israel is commanded to redeem him.
We allow a debtor consideration in the same manner that consideration is granted to a person who makes a pledge to the Temple treasury and is unable to pay it.
What is implied? The court tells the borrower: "Bring all the movable property that you own; don't leave anything, not even a needle."
After he brings his possessions, we give him from everything that he has brought:
a) food for 30 days;
b) clothing for 12 months that is appropriate for him - he should not wear silk clothes or a hat crowned with gold; instead, such garments are taken away from him and he is given appropriate garments for 12 months;
c) a couch to sit on and a bed and a mattress to sleep on; if he is a poor man, he is given a bed and a straw mattress to sleep on. These articles are not given to his wife or to his children, despite the fact that he is obligated to provide them with sustenance.
The borrower is also given his sandals and his tefillin. If he is a craftsman, he is given two of the tools of his craft of every type necessary. For example, if he is a carpenter, he is given two awls and two planes. If he has many types of one utensil and only one of another, he is granted two of the utensil of which he possesses many, and all that he owns of that he possesses one. We do not purchase other tools for him from the sale of those many tools.
Although the borrower is a farmer or a donkey driver, we do not grant him his team of oxen or his donkey. Similarly, if he is a sailor, we do not give him his ship, even though these are his only sources of livelihood. The rationale is that these articles are not considered utensils, but rather property. They should be sold with the other movable property in court and the proceeds given to the creditor.
The following law applies when a creditor comes to expropriate payment outside the presence of the borrower - e.g., the borrower journeyed to a distant country. If the borrower's wife seized possession of movable property belonging to her husband to sell so that she could derive her livelihood from it, it is expropriated from her and given to the creditor. The rationale is that even if her husband were present, he would not be entitled to provide for the sustenance of his wife and sons until he paid his debt in its entirety.
Published and copyright by Moznaim Publications, all rights reserved.
To purchase this book or the entire series, please click here
The text on this page contains sacred literature. Please do not deface or discard.