Published on May 16, 2022
In the Torah portion Behar we are commanded that when giving a loan to a fellow Jew, one may not charge interest. Our Sages explain that whoever doesn’t take interest accepts the yoke of Heaven, and whoever takes interest removes the yoke of Heaven.
Isn’t it strange to equate the taking of interest with rejecting the “yoke of Heaven” – G-d’s Will? Going against the command to not take interest seems more a symptom of a lack of trust in G-d; the person is afraid that if he doesn’t make money at every opportunity he won’t have enough. On the other hand, one who lends money to another Jew without any gain, displays a great trust in G-d!
Accepting the yoke of Heaven expresses itself mostly in the performance of commandments. Why do a mitzva? Because G-d said so. That is the simple definition of accepting the yoke of Heaven. When you do a mitzva this way, G-d “participates” in your mitzva and your mitzva affects the world.
But, why does G-d want our mitzvot to have an effect above? And why does G-d want us to do mitzvot at all?
One of the reasons G-d created the world is “to do good to His creations,” because it is “His nature to do good.” But that raises another question: Why doesn’t G-d just fill our needs without us having to do anything?
Because of G-d’s nature to do good, He wants us to feel good about what we receive from Him, to feel like we earned it; no one feels satisfied with a hand-out. When you get something that is not earned, it is called “bread of shame.” G-d has us serve Him so that we earn what we receive from Him.
When we work, if it is meaningful and actually accomplishes something we feel fulfilled. If someone were to give you useless busy-work just to give you a paycheck, it wouldn’t feel good. It is still bread of shame, because you know that it is a hand-out. G-d enabled our mitzvot to make a real difference Above, so that it would be truly satisfying and meaningful to fulfill mitzvot. Therefore, G-d set things up in a way that our mitzvot have an effect. This makes our service more enjoyable and gratifying.
And this relates to the mitzva of taking or not taking interest. What is interest? Interest is when you make a profit off money that you once had and it is now in the borrower’s possession. You are not involved at all, but you are taking the profit. A “free loan” is different than an investment where one risks his capital, and gains and loses with the success of the venture.
G-d treats us as we treat others. If we try to “turn a profit” without actually doing any work, G-d will not participate in our mitzvot.
This is a lesson for us. You can’t expect to “live off” things you’ve done in the past. You have to continuously be an active participant in the world around you, in your relationships, and in the good things you have established already. The reward for this is that G-d will be your partner and your life will be filled with blessing.
Our continuing involvement in Torah and mitzvot will surely hastening the coming of Moshiach, may he come now. Moshiach NOW!!!