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Rambam - Sefer HaMitzvos
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Negative Mitzvah 239

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Introduction to Mitzvot 239-242:

Prohibitions against demanding Security for Loans

Sammy loves to listen to stories on cassettes, but his parents cannot afford to buy them all! One day, Sammy came up with a great idea.

"I'm sure other kids have the same problem," he told his father. "I'll open a tape library and invite all my friends to use it."

Sammy's parents helped him organize and set rules for the library. They decided that the service would be free, but every borrower had to bring one tape as a guarantee for each tape he borrowed.

Sammy explained to his friends that their tape would be a guarantee for any tape they may damage.

"Besides," he added with a smile, "In the meantime, others can borrow it and have a lot more tapes to lend out!"

The rules Sammy set were fair. The Torah allows us to request a guarantee for something we loan out.

Sometimes, we may even demand a valuable item from somebody who borrows money or owes us something. That item serves as "security" for the loan.

For example, Mr. Landis may deposit his gold ring in exchange for a loan. The lender keeps the ring as a security and returns it as soon as Mr. Landis repays the loan.

Even though we are permitted to accept items as guarantees, the Torah expects us to be considerate.

First, we must be reasonable in our demand.

Second, we must be sensitive to the borrower's feelings of shame or discomfort.

Third, (in our example) though Mr. Landis may not need his gold ring for a while, another borrower may be desperate for the item he has given as security. We must always take into account that even though the borrower deposited the item in order to receive a loan, he might really need that item.

Mitzvot 239-242 teach us the different rules and laws which apply to this practice of demanding security for loans.

Negative Mitzvah 239: It is forbidden to forcefully demand a pledge when the loan is due
Deuteronomy 24:10 "You shall not go into his house to take his pledge"

When the time comes for a loan to be paid, it is forbidden to demand a guarantee from a borrower directly or try to take such a guarantee by force.

In order to get the guarantee, we must go through the courts and ask the judge to order that it be collected by a court representative.

Studying Torah is not like studying any other subject. In another subject your mind fuses itself with information and knowledge about a thing. But in learning Torah, those thoughts you contemplate -- He is there within them and you are one with Him at that time.

From: Bringing Heaven Down to Earth by Tzvi Freeman -

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