3-5770 Mitzvah 61
December 6, 2009
Negative Mitzvah 61 – This is a negative commandment: Do not withhold from its owner an object taken in pledge, at the time that he needs it.
Hafetz Hayim – As Scripture says: “you shall not sleep with his pledge.” (Deut. 24:12). Which means: do not go to sleep while his pledged object is with you (see positive commandment #63) http://toratemetlessons.blogspot.com/2007/06/29-5767-mitzvah-63.html . It is in force everywhere, at every time for both men and women.
The above link has my comments on the positive side of this Mitzvah. It is a positive Mitzvah to return an object, given as a pledge on a loan, if the object is something a person needs for his daily life or to make a living. It can include clothing, tools of his trade, bedding, or kitchen utensils. Most times a person will pawn something that he doesn’t need but which has a value if it were to be sold. The borrower might not want to sell it for sentimental reasons or that market for the item may not be favorable at the time the borrower needs the money. In this case, the pawned object stays with the lender until the loan is paid.
But if the object is something that is vital to the borrower for his daily life or to earn a living, he may need that object to earn what is needed to pay back the loan. Jewish law commands us to give him the object when he needs it and he will return it when he is finished. We should return his tools in the morning when he goes to work and he will return them at the end of the day. We can hold his bedding by day but we need to return it to him each evening before he goes to sleep.
It is a positive Mitzvah to return to the borrower such necessary objects. It is a negative Mitzvah not to return them. This is how seriously Judaism takes this part of Jewish law. This law had to be stated both as a positive Mitzvah as well as a negative Mitzvah. It is not just a nice thing to return the object. It is not just a “charitable” act on the part of the lender. It is a requirement of the law to act in a moral way and there will be punishment if we refuse to do what is right. We are not dealing with rich people needing to raise some capital to cash in on some investment. We are dealing here with poor people who are taking a loan in desperate financial times. We must take care not to create for them impossible situations or embarrassing moments lest God, who watches out for the poor, the orphan and the widow, will take up their case and act against the heartless lender who causes these defenseless people such pain.
In Judaism we do not say “business is business.” We conduct our business practices with humanity and morality.