Ki Tetzei(Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)
Treat Him Right
It's a good deed to let people borrow our money or property, but the good doesn't just end there. Just as important is how we treat the person that we have lent to. The Torah gives us guidelines on how to be sensitive to the borrower's feelings - not to embarrass him, or pressure him too much to return what he's borrowed. By respecting the dignity of the people we help, we complete the Mitzvah.
In our story, a girl discovers the true art of lending.
"NO DEPOSIT-NO RETURN"
Sharon Gold was an avid reader; you might even call her a bookworm. To Sharon, books were more than just something to put on shelves - they were friends. So, when her friend Lisa asked to borrow one of her favorite books - a nature book filled with gorgeous pictures of animals - for a school project, Sharon had to think twice.
In the end, she had agreed, but now Sharon was beginning to regret her decision. Even though Lisa had promised her she would only need the book for a little while, she had kept it now for a couple of weeks, with no return in sight.
At first Sharon tried to be diplomatic, and just subtly hint to her friend about the book. Whenever she would run into Lisa in the lunchroom or after class, she would smile and ask, "How's your Nature report going? Finished all your research yet?" and things like that.
But Lisa didn't seem to take the hint. She just answered, "Oh everything's fine, thanks," and went on her merry way.
Sharon wanted to scream, "How can everything be fine when you've been holding one of my favorite books hostage for half a month?!"
But she didn't, even though she was at her wits' end. True, she probably wasn't going to read that particular book again for quite a while, but it was the principle of the thing. How could Lisa be so inconsiderate?
One morning Sharon happened to pass by Lisa as she was putting things away in her locker. She peeked in with the corner of her eye and saw a big pile of books all stacked up here and there. She was sure her precious nature book lay somewhere smothered between them.
"Enough is enough!" Sharon told herself. "I'm gonna demand that Lisa give me back my book - now. And if not, I'm just going to reach in and grab it myself."
While Sharon realized that making such a scene in the crowded hallway would likely cause Lisa some embarrassment, she didn't care. After all, wasn't it Lisa's fault for being so rude and not returning her book?
Sharon made her move and was about to pounce when she had a second thought: "Maybe I'm going a bit too far. I lent Lisa my book to be nice and friendly. Should I blow the whole thing now by rubbing her nose in it and embarrassing her in public? I guess if she's still holding on to my book, she must still need it. I suppose that two weeks doesn't seem that long to people who aren't as crazy about books as I am."
Somehow, with great effort, Sharon managed to get a hold of herself and keep on walking past Lisa, her locker, and her beloved long-lost book. She told herself that after she calmed down a bit, she would ask Lisa nicely in a place where she wouldn't be embarrassed if she could please return her book.
Sharon got home, threw on a relaxing CD, and went over to visit some of her best friends - her books. Nothing like a good read to make her forget her troubles. She bent over to grab a novel from a lower shelf, and froze. There was her nature book, sitting neatly in its place!
But hadn't she...? Didn't Lisa...?
Now it all came back to her. She had never lent her book to Lisa in the first place! She had forgotten! Dizzy, Sharon plopped down on her bed. What a fool she had almost made of herself at school! Sharon shook her head. "Am I ever glad that I was smart enough to leave alone the girl I thought I had give a loan."
Q. How did Sharon feel when she thought her friend was keeping her book too long?
A. She felt like she wanted to grab it back, even if it hurt her friend's feelings.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She was glad she had been patient and not made a scene, especially since she had never lent out the book in the first place.
Q. Would it have been okay for Sharon to ask for her book back?
A. If she asked in a polite and sensitive way, it would be no problem. But to embarrass or accuse her friend over it would not have been right.
Q. Do we have to lend our things to people when they ask?
A. Lending our money or property is a way to really help others out. The Torah goes out of its way to encourage it. Unless we have a very good reason not to do it, or a genuine concern the person won't return it, we should freely lend, and feel the special joy of doing good.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is there anything wrong for charging interest on the money that we lend to others?
A. Even though it is a common practice today, the Torah prohibits us from charging or paying interest. We should certainly lend - but as a way of helping others out, not a way to make money.
Q. If a person is careful never to borrow from others, does this justify his refusing to lend?
A. While it is praiseworthy to be self-sufficient and not need to ask of others, we should be openhanded where others are concerned. To refuse others in need is a form of cruelty that cannot be justified simply because 'I never take.' God is generous, and we become more Godly when we're generous too.