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    If you lend money – Mishpatim

    helping hand“If you lend money to your fellow, do not act like a creditor; do not exact interest from him” (Ex. 22:25).

    Most people focus on the final part of the verse, deducing correctly that you should not exploit the misfortune of your fellow who cannot survive unless he takes a loan. When a person is in difficulty, you should not turn away from him.

    We see this too in the first word of the sentence – the Hebrew im (if). Normally “if” denotes a choice – you can decide if you are going to take a certain action or if you aren’t. In our case you don’t really have an option. When someone needs help you have a duty to assist.

    How then are we to understand the word “if”? Surely it implies an option!

    The answer may be that though you know you are obliged to help another person, you must never regard it as a chore. It must be something you would voluntarily choose, even if it weren’t a duty.

    It reminds me of what Albert Einstein is said to have remarked, “I am sorry I was born a Jew… because it deprived me of the ability to choose to be a Jew!”

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