In Parshas Mishpatim, we learn: “Im kesef talveh es ami – When you lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you, do not act toward him as a creditor/lender; you shall not impose interest upon him” (Sh’mos 22:24). There is a positive commandment in the Torah to lend money to anyone who needs it. Our sages teach us that the mitzvah to lend money is even greater than the mitzvah to give tz’dakah, because a person is much less embarrassed to receive a loan than to receive tz’dakah. The Torah prohibits a Jew from imposing interest on the borrower, because when people help each other, they are uniting through their act of kindness. However, when a person takes interest, he acts in the opposite manner, taking advantage of his fellow Jew’s misfortune in order to enrich himself.
Although we live in a time where many Jews struggle financially, the Jewish people have always risen to their appellation of being merciful people and baalei chesed. Our Sages teach us that Hashem created poverty because He wants people to learn how to give and be kind. The world was created for the purpose of chesed.
Without a Beis HaMikdash, we are limited in the ways that we can serve Hashem; however, there is no change from the way we are able to relate to our fellow man. In T’hilim, David HaMelech declared: “The kindnesses of Hashem I shall sing forever (Chasdei Hashem olam ashirah); to generation after generation I shall make known Your faithfulness, with my mouth. For I said, ‘Forever will it be built with kindness (Olam chesed yibaneh), as the heavens, with which You will establish Your faithfulness.’”
Chazal teach us that chesed was in existence before the Torah, and that the act of Creation was in itself Hashem’s ultimate act of kindness. The B’eir Mayim Chayim explains that the authentic sign of g’milus chasadim (lovingkindness) is that one runs after the unfortunate and dispirited [to help them].
Giving tz’dakah is a mitzvah of great importance and carries consequences when a person is thoughtless. The Midrash explains that when a poor person asks for help, Hashem stands to his right side “Ki yaamod liy’min evyon (T’hilim 109:31).” If one does not do chesed with the beggar, he should beware: “Ashrei maskil el dal b’yom raah, y’malteihu Hashem – Praiseworthy is he who takes the needy into account; on the day of evil, Hashem will deliver him (41:2).” Tz’dakah protects; tz’dakah engenders material success. Tz’dakah saves.
With Hashem’s help, may we pursue lives that represent the highest level of true g’milus chasadim! Amen!