This week’s Parsha deals with Shmittah as it pertains to money – Shmittas Kesafim. Parshas Behar discusses Shmittah of Land – Shmittas Karkois. The basic structure of Shmittah for money is the same seven year cycle. For the entire seventh year, lenders don’t approach borrowers for the collection of debt. At the conclusion of the seventh year all past debts are automatically annulled.
Shmittah of loans seems harsher then property in two aspects:
Firstly there is the loss of capital, whereas Shmittas Karka is restraint from earning profit, in fact we are permitted to work the land to prevent loss, with Shmittas Kesafim the lender loses his original outlay.
Secondly it is much harder to suffer a loss when some else reaps the benefits, during Shmittas Karka nobody is gaining at my expense while in Kesafim, the borrower gains from the remission of the debt to the cost of the moneylender.
Why the difference?
People have a misconception about the purpose of money. There are people who have sufficient funds for many generations but are consumed with amassing more wealth. Others dream of winning lottery jackpots of astronomical amounts. These people treat money as an end onto itself. While in reality money is only a tool, its very essence is its literal power to purchase. In order to drive home that message, the Torah says every seven years all outstanding debts should be cancelled. Therefore capital which has been not yet been transferred into its end goal, should be forfeited. This enforces the transient quality of funds.
View money in light of the goals we can achieve with it.
The chief judge of Rav Chaim Soloveitchik’s beis din, was a great scholar named Rav Simchah Zelig Riger. It once happened that a butcher came into the beis din with a question regarding an animal he had just slaughtered. He had found a questionable infection on its lung and he wanted to know whether or not the animal was kosher.
Rav Simchah Zelig looked at the evidence and then considered the question very carefully. In those days, there were no real options for disposing of non-kosher animals. Declaring an animal non kosher was no simple matter, it involved very great financial loss. Unfortunately, however, Rav Simchah Zelig could not find any basis for declaring the animal kosher.
“Your fears prove true,” he said. “I’m sorry but this animal does have a diseased lung and is not kosher.”
The man sighed as he heard the ruling. He nodded in acceptance and walked out without a whimper.
Three months later, the same man appeared before Rav Simchah Zelig once again, this time to litigate a dispute between him and another person. The disputed amount was a paltry 100 rubles. Rav Simchah Zelig ruled against the man,and it cost him 100 rubles.
He ranted and raved that the Rav did not know how to ajudicate even a simple question. He threatened the Rabbi and verbally assaulted him. The screams were so loud that Rav Chaim heard him and came running. Afraid the man would become violent, Rav Chaim ordered him to leave.
“I don’t understand,” said Rav Simchah Zelig when he was finally alone with Rav Chaim. “Three months ago this man comes into my court. I rule against him and it costs him 2000 rubles, but he doesn’t say a thing. Today he comes into my court, he loses 100 rubles,and he goes wild. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“The amount of money has nothing to do with it,” Rav Chaim replied. “It’s all about winning and losing. In the case of the animal, there were no winners and losers, just a question about a piece of meat that had to be resolved. However, today I awarded someone money that he perceived to be his. People are willing to lose for Heaven’s sake, but they can not handle the fact that someone is getting what they believe is theirs.”
On Shabbos one may open and close a folding chair, bed, stroller, table and play pen.