Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Loan With Interest

It is hard to imagine the poverty of yeshivah bochurim of earlier generations. By the time the zeman was over most had not one penny to pay their traveling expenses home. In Mir, the administration had a system to deal with this problem. The bochurim would take a loan from Rav Yerucham Levovitz, zt”l, the famed Mirrer Mashgiach, and repay it at the beginning of the new zeman.

At the end of the first zeman, Rav Shimon Schwab, zt”l, found himself without money to travel home and asked the mashgiach for a loan. Rav Yerucham gave him the money and Rav Schwab naturally thanked him.

To the young man’s surprise, this common courtesy upset the normally soft-spoken mashgiach. “Don’t you know that it is forbidden to say thank you for a loan?” Rav Yerucham asserted. “Do you think that because of your ‘yekkish’ mentality you are permitted to violate an explicit halachah in Shulchan Aruch?”

At the end of his second zeman, Rav Schwab once again required a loan to get home. But this time when he received the money he understood not to thank the mashgiach.

To his surprise, the mashgiach, a mechanech par excellence, was once again upset at him. “Aren’t you ashamed? You receive a loan and you fail to show any interest in thanking me? Does this not reveal a lack of the most basic derech eretz and manners?”

This time, Rav Schwab was at a loss to understand what the mashgiach meant. “Last time the mashgiach said that expressing gratitude is a blatant violation of the Shulchan Aruch and must be suppressed. And now the mashgiach states that a failure to say thank you betrays a lack of basic menschlichkeit?”

Rav Yerucham explained. “It should be apparent on your face that you would like to say thank you since it is only common decency to thank another for any kindness granted, but in this case you cannot because the Shulchan Aruch forbids it. But looking at your face it was clear that you received this loan with the feeling that you have fulfilled your entire obligation by merely refraining from saying thank you. This error must be corrected!”[1]