In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
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. 23, 2009 / 6 Kislev 5770

Money matters

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q. I notice many people living beyond their means, racking up credit card debt or overdrafts. Does Judaism have anything to say about this phenomenon?

A. The human tendency to live beyond our means is hardly a new one, and is discussed in many ancient Jewish sources. One of the most prominent is the following passage from Maimonides' Code. Maimonides begins with the prohibition to dun and harass a debtor when in any case he has no means to pay, but then in characteristic fashion he also discusses the opposite problem:

It is forbidden for the creditor to present himself before a debtor when he knows he has no way of paying. . . And just as it is forbidden to dun him, so it is forbidden for the debtor to withhold his fellow's money that was entrusted to him and to say, "Come back later", when in fact he has [the money]. . . It is likewise forbidden for a borrower to take a loan and to spend it unnecessarily, and to lose it until the creditor will not find any way to collect — even if the lender is very wealthy. And any one who does so is called wicked, as it is written "the wicked borrow and don't pay." And the sages taught us, "Let your fellow's property be as dear to you as your own." (1)

Maimonides' main focus is on the interpersonal. A person who borrows to finance frivolous expenses ("to spend it unnecessarily") is likely to end up leaving the lender in the lurch. This was particularly abhorrent in previous times, when loans were almost solely interest-free and lenders were motivated solely by a desire to help the needy. However even today, when most lenders are motivated by a desire for gain, a person should take his monetary obligations seriously. Whenever you borrow you give your word that you will pay back, and a person should always stand by his word.

However, this same admonition also teaches us something about budget management. As the Prisha commentary points out, when Maimonides says "until the creditor will not find any way to collect," he doesn't mean that the person intends to evade payment. Rather, this is an inevitable risk of borrowing money for expenses beyond basic necessities.

But in the Jewish worldview, monetary matters are not just a matter of budget constraints; they are also matters of Divine providence. The Torah tells us that the land of Israel is "a land constantly under G-d your Lord's scrutiny; the eyes of G-d your Lord are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year" (Deuteronomy 11:12, Living Torah translation). As Rashi explains, G-d is always scrutinizing the needs of the inhabitants of the land of Israel, and beyond that the inhabitants of the whole world, assessing and providing for their needs.

Based on this, when G-d sees that we have extra needs, He may provide us with extra means. So great is our faith in this aspect of providence that our sages encourage us to rely on it. But the sages had a very particular concept of what our true needs are — one that doesn't correspond to the spending patterns of many heavy borrowers:

Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rebbe Eliezer the son of Rebbe Shimon: The Holy One, blessed be He said to Israel: "My sons, borrow on my account and sanctify the [Sabbath] day; trust Me and I will pay. . . .All of a person's sustenance is budgeted from Rosh HaShana to Rosh HaShana, except for expenses for Sabbath and holidays and expenses for Torah education for his children. In this case, if he scrimps his budget is cut, and if he adds his budget is increased.

Having bread, wine and a bit of meat for holy days (not weekdays) and providing adequate Torah education for children are not luxuries; they are necessities. Therefore, a person is allowed to borrow for these outlays. Of course even in this case a person may not borrow recklessly, but there is definitely a belief in providence that allows us to extend ourselves in these cases a little more than we normally would. But we can just as easily see from this that for non-essential expenses, if we don't have enough money for them now and we can't see how we will obtain enough soon, that is evidently an indication that they are not part of our providential budget for this year.

SOURCES: (1) Maimonides' Code, Laws of Loans 1:3. (2) Prisha commentary, Choshen Mishpat 97:7. (3) Babylonian Talmud, Beitza 15b, 16a

Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor — for free? Let us know by clicking here.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspiring articles. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.

To comment or pose a question, please click here.


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.


You've enjoyed his columns on JWR for years. Now the Jewish Ethicist has culled his most intriguing — and controversial — offerings in book form.
Sales help fund JWR.

© 2009, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics