Parashat Re’eh (Look) Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17


Parashat Re’eh (Look) Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17

Rosh Chodesh Elul

Haftarah: Isaiah 66:1-24

Debt is a major problem today in the world. Many countries have high levels of national debt and are turning to other countries to bail them out. When it comes to debt the United States of America leads the way, 16 trillion dollars and growing. Although one calls this America’s national debt, the figure does not include the debt of States and local municipalities, not to mention the future obligations of these entities which are not funded. In other words, the financial future is pretty bleak. When Congress speaks about cutting the national debt, it is only referring to cutting the rate of its growth. For example, last summer Congress passed a plan to cut four trillion dollars from the national debt over the next ten years. At this time one would think that the national debt, that was just over 14 trillion dollars, would be reduced to ten trillion by the end of 2021. This is not how Congress works. The four trillion dollar cut was from the estimated ten trillion that would have been added. Hence, when Washington cuts four trillion dollars it means that they are really adding six trillion dollars to the national debt. By the way, they are on pace to exceed the six trillion dollars after the first year. What does all this have to do with Parashat Re’eh?

In this week’s Torah portion one reads,

From the end of seven years you shall make a Sh’mittah.” Deuteronomy 15:1

There are many aspects to the Hebrew word “Sh’mittah”. For example, in the seventh year the land is given a Shabbat and all the fields are left fallow. In regard to our subject of debt, the Sh’mittah demands that any loan that is not paid by the end of the seventh year is canceled out. This would have many implications. First, people would not be able to borrow vast sums of money that were to be paid off over twenty or thirty years. This would mean that people would be able to only borrow amounts of money they could pay back in a relatively short period of time. This would reduce the number of loans that one could receive. In other words, people would naturally have less debt that could be expected to be handled with greater ease. Second, because of the ease in which credit is made available, prices are higher. Paying cash for a product often times will reduce the price more than just the cost of credit. Finally, if loans were actually canceled out after seven years whether they were paid in full or not, the lender would be much more scrutinizing to whom he gave credit. The retaining of bad debt on balance sheets has serious and adverse consequences. Scriptural stewardship would certainly bring about a healthier financial condition in the world. Why not practice it?

Shabbat Shalom

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