One of my fondest memories of my years learning in Israel is the system of free loans that the boys used to practice in our Yeshiva. Though few of the locals had much money to spare, this was no impediment to kindness. A few of the students would somehow put together a nest egg and then spread the word that they were "open for business." Anyone low on for cash would know that he could have a short-term interest-free loan for nothing but the asking. The system was a lifesaver for anyone in a crisis and even I, a chutznik (supposedly "wealthy" foreigner), used to borrow occasionally, when waiting for my remittance to arrive from my parents.

The only condition the guy running the scheme would insist on was that a guarantor promise to back the loan in the unlikely event of a no-show by the borrower. It made sense, after all generous people would donate or lend to the gemach (free loan fund), and there is a religious imperative to be scrupulous when managing public monies. And if the principal goes missing, there will nothing available for the next guy who needs.

I must confess to a certain sense of unease the whole time a loan was outstandingI was occasionally asked to stand surety on a loan. Although I felt no real concern that my friends would do a runner, I still took it seriously. Before agreeing to sign the pledge, I checked to make sure that I had sufficient reserves to meet my marker were it to be called in, and I must confess to a certain sense of unease the whole time a loan was outstanding.

In a way, G‑d operated on the same principle. Before giving us the Torah he demanded a guarantor. In the oft-repeated tale, the Jews offered him a variety of choices to stand surety, but none were acceptable to G‑d. Then, in a stroke of inspired genius, we suggested that the Jewish children could sign on as guarantors. This proved acceptable and He gave us the Torah.

The obvious moral of the legend is the imperative to train our youth when young, because only thus can we ensure the propagation of our faith. However, there is another important significance to the story. Just as a guarantor for a loan knows that he can be called on at any time to make good his pledge, and had better have sufficient funds available at all times, so too we've got to educate children to appreciate and live up to their responsibilities.

We must teach them to learn, live and love Judaism, salting away stores of knowledge and faith, so that when they get called upon to justify the deal we made with G‑d, they've got sufficient credit to fully cover their share of the bargain.