From the Desk - Not Charging Interest to a Fellow Jew
Shalom Friends! I hope you are enjoying this very special Passover festival! The first two days of Yom Tov were beautiful here in Beth Ora and I hope you all enjoyed your seders.
On Monday, a wonderful group of Beth Ora families went on a trip to Skytag in Dollard. Everyone had a great time and we look forward to many more successful events at Beth Ora.
This Passover marks the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The last day of Passover this year (on which we say Yizkor) coincides with the Shabbat preceding Yom Hashoah, the day designated in the Jewish calendar for Holocaust remembrance. On Shabbat, I plan to make special mention of the Holocaust survivors in our community. Next Shabbat (April 14th) is the Shabbat preceding Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance for Israeli soldiers) and Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israel Independence Day). We will be marking this Shabbat with Israel themed tunes and sermon as well as an Israeli style Kiddush! The following Shabbat (April 20th-21st) is a particularly exciting one for Beth Ora. I'm delighted to let you know that we are bringing to our community Rabbi Doron Kornbluth. Rabbi Kornbluth is a bestselling author and a speaker of international renown. On Friday April 20th, he will be speaking at our Blossom catered Shabbat dinner. We have also arranged a fantastic Batman Show for young children at the time that Rabbi Korbluth will be speaking. The topic is Teaching Your Kids (or Grandkids) to Love Being Jewish. Whether you are a parent, grandparent or even great grandparent, this event will inspire and enlighten. Please call the office to book: 514-748-6559. Something Important to Do on Thursday Normally, we are not allowed to cook or prepare food on the first day of Yom Tov for the second. This year, this presents a problem because the last day of Passover is a Shabbat on which we are not allowed to cook food. There is a ritual called Eruv Tavshilin ("blending of dishes") that permits cooking and food preparation on the seventh day of Passover (Friday) for use on Shabbat. It is easy to do this. Simply single out food for Shabbat on Thursday by setting aside some cooked food (such as a hard boiled egg) and some baked food (such as matzah). Then recite the blessing: Baruch atah Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech Haolam, asher kidishanu b'mitzvotav, vitzivanu at mitzvat eruv. The food should be saved and may be eaten on Shabbat. This allows household members and guests to cook and prepare food for Shabbat on Friday. We wish all our members and friends Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What's the Deal with... Not Charging Interest to a Fellow Jew? Some time ago, President Rashkovan asked me why we as Jews are not allowed to charge interest to a fellow Jew. In explaining what the deal is with this, I benefited from an article on the subject, written by Rabbi Jay Kelman. The President's question is a good one: interest is not more than rent on money. If one can charge rent for all else, why not for money? Moreover, even granted that there is a prohibition, why can't the borrower and lender agree to waive the prohibition? Of course, in today's economy, this prohibition would be much more difficult, from a practical perspective. If not for interest, very few people would be able to buy a house or own a car. Factories would close, jobs would be lost and there would be great suffering. So what's the deal? The first thing to note is that the Torah sees nothing immoral with charging interest. Rather, not charging interest is an act of kindness the Torah expects us to do for our fellow Jew. Just as we would be horrified at a parent charging interest on a loan to a child for a down payment on a home, we must see all Jews as brothers and sisters whom we help out in times of need. Of course, kindness does have its limitations.With the industrial revolution and great increases in wealth, loans were no longer primarily for basic necessities. They were for luxury items such as a personal home, a car or maybe a vacation. Moreover much of the money loaned today is for business purposes helping people to amass great wealth. It makes little sense for one to lend someone $5 million so that he can build a small subdivision and sell the homes for $10 million with the one who provided the finances not receiving a penny in return! It was this situation that led the rabbis to develop the heter iska, a legal loophole that converts a loan into a business partnership. This allows one to effectively, though not formally, collect interest. Faced with two conflicting values - the clear Torah prohibition against charging interest on the one hand and economic necessity on the other, our Sages devised a way to preserve both, ensuring the Torah remains a Torah of life!