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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2008 / 7 Mar-Cheshvan 5769

Destitute Debtors

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: A person owes me a large court judgment from damage he caused when he was well-off. Now he claims I should leave him alone since he has become destitute. Must I lay off?


A: In the time of the Torah, financial markets were not well developed and the main form of loan was an interest-free loan to a needy person to tide him over in a difficult time. Conversely, giving a loan was the preferred method of helping a needy person. We can see this from the following passage (Deuteronomy 15:7-8):


"When there will be among you a needy person from among your brethren, in one of your gates in your land which the Lord your G-d gave you, don't harden your heart and don't shut your hand to your needy brother. Surely open your hand to him and lend him on pledge according to his needs which he lacks" (Deut. 15:7-8).


The following verse warns us not to refrain from lending in anticipation of the release of the Sabbatical year, reinforcing the message that the primary form of help is a loan.


Given the Torah's constant concern for the welfare and dignity of the poor and needy, we are hardly surprised that we are commanded to be thoughtful towards the poor person not only when he takes the loan, but also when the loan is due. We see this from the following commandment:


"When you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, don't be to him like a creditor; don't impose interest on him"(Exodus 22:24).


This commandment forbids the creditor from gratuitously harassing the borrower, which could cause him shame. The Talmud adds that the lender should avoid even showing himself before the borrower. (1) Making himself seen more than he ordinarily would is a clear hint that payment is demanded. (2)


However, this prohibition is balanced by two additional provisions:


1. The prohibition applies only if the lender is certain that the borrower cannot pay. In ordinary circumstances a lender has every right to demand his money back when it is due, and to take any legitimate steps that will promote repayment. Maimonides writes: "Anyone who duns a poor person and knows that he has nothing to repay, transgresses a negative commandment". (3) In other words, collection is forbidden only if it is truly gratuitous and serves only to embarrass the debtor.


2. Jewish law places a reciprocal obligation on the borrower to act in a responsible way. In the very same law where he describes the prohibition to appear before the borrower, Maimonides adds that the borrower is forbidden to hide assets or to spend the loan irresponsibly. This is meant to ensure that shaming the borrower is not justified as a response to irresponsible conduct on his part.


(3) Your case does not fit the general mold of this prohibition. Most of all, you don't have certain knowledge that the tortfeasor is destitute, and you are not required to take his word for it. In addition, the debt did not originate with a voluntary agreement to help someone out, nor with an indigent individual. There is no reason you can't proceed with collection action given this state of uncertainty and blame, which correspond with the state of certainty and reciprocity described in Maimonides.


However, if you ever should become convinced that this person has no ability to pay, then it would seem gratuitous to keep on pursuing him. Irrespective of the prohibition on harassing and indigent borrower, pursuing a vain vendetta is bad not only for the victim, but for the pursuer as well. Do your best to collect your debt, but keep focused on the practical goal of getting your money.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 75b. (2) Mechiltah deRashbi on Exodus 22:24. (3) Maimonides' Code, laws of lender and borrower 1:2-3

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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