Parsha Mitzvot: Re’ei: Mitzvah 447 – Concept 528
“This is the matter of the remission: Every creditor shall remit his authority over what he has lent his fellow; he shall not press his fellow or his brother, for He has proclaimed a remission for God. You may press the gentile, but over what you have with your brother, you shall remit your authority.” (Deuteronomy 15:2-3) We may press an idolater for payment. (Rambam, Hilchot Malveh V’Loveh – The Laws of Creditor and Debtor)
The creditor, by virtue of his legal claim on his neighbor has become a person of power, holding him in his hand. He renounces forever on Shemittah his right to assert that power, but the debtor remains forever morally obligated to him. The Torah wants us to pay careful attention to the power we wield over another when we lend money to them. The creditor asserts his power when presses the debtor for payment.
The Torah demands that sensitivity only when it is destructive to a relationship. However, when an idolater chooses to live in Israel and obey the Noachide laws, it is important that he remember that he may live in Israel only with the agreement of the Children of Israel. The power that the Jewish creditor asserts serves as a reminder of the idolater’s place in the Land of Israel.
When a Jew lives in the land of gentiles, he lives under their power. He pressing the loan may restore some of his sense of power without damaging his relationship with the debtor who holds different power of his Jewish creditor.
This law is a powerful reminder that many of our interactions, even, if not especially, those of Chesed, when one helps another, contain an element of power. When A gives charity to B, the recipient is indebted to the giver. The giver now has certain power over the other. He must constantly be sensitive to the feelings of powerlessness of the recipient of his kindness.
Parents must be sensitive to the power they wield over their children. Teachers must be careful to never inappropriately use their power over students. Community leaders must be aware of how they use their power over the community.