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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

Behar-Bechukosai: Interesting Distinction

את כספך לא תתן לו בנשך ובמרבית לא תתן אכליך, אני ד' אלקיכם אשר הוצאתי אתכם מארץ מצרים וגו'
You shall not lend your money or food items for interest, for I am Hashem who took you out of Egypt

The pasuk links the prohibition of usury and interest with the fact that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim. The simple sentiment is that when Hashem freed us from the house of bondage, we became obligated forever to keep His commandments. However, this is true of every mitzvah. What is the deeper connection between the specific mitzvah of not charging interest and the exodus from Egypt?

Rashi, citing the Gemara, explains that one might easily be tempted to circumvent this mitzvah. One can simply claim that the money he is lending is not his, rather the funds of a non-Jew, and he is merely acting as his agent to lend them for interest. Although it isn’t true, and it would clearly be forbidden, who would ever know? Seemingly this mitzvah is ‘unenforceable’. To this, Hashem says, I took you out of Egypt. Just as I could discern the Egyptian firstborn from the not-firstborn, I can also discern those who hide behind the deception of ‘lending non-Jewish money’.

Chazal express a similar concept regarding the mitzvah of dying our tzitzis blue. The blue dye was from the chilazon, possibly a snail of some sort, which was very labor-intensive to produce. If I simply dye my strings with a blue food coloring, who would be the wiser? Again, the possuk states regarding the tzitzis “I took you out of Egypt, and I can discern”.

And finally we find the same statement of Chazal regarding falsifying weights and measures- “don’t think you can fool Me by eroding your weights in salt, for I am Hashem, and I am able to discern between..”

What is the emphasis on Hashem being able to ‘discern’?

Rav Schwab z”l offers an amazing insight: the entire miraculous exodus was meant to clarify to the world the truth of Hashem. The world we populate is known as 'עלמא דשקרא', the world of falsehood. The miracles dispelled this falsehood and brought out the clarity of absolute truth. Our job is to internalize these truths deep within ourselves and securely retain them so we can resiliently withstand the challenges of darkness.

These examples all share a common theme. In each one, an individual tries to circumvent the mitzvos by presenting something that is not what it appears to be. This is the opposite of the very purpose that Hashem intends for us to achieve.

To this, Hashem says, “I am Hashem who discerned, and gave you the ability to discern as well”. Use this ability well!

May we all merit to use the tools that Hashem gave us properly, and reach our full potential. Have a wonderful Shabbos!

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