Parshas Behar & Bechukosai, 2007

This Shabbos we read two parshas - Parshas Behar, and Parshas Bechukosai. In Parshas Behar we are taught about the prohibition of ribis – the prohibition to take interest from a Jew. “Do not take from him neshech (interest) and tarbis (increase), and you should fear Hashem, and your brother shall live with you.” (Leviticus 25:36) This prohibition applies both to the one who takes the interest, and to the who pays the interest. The Talmud tells us that the severity of this prohibition is very great, to the point that one who takes interest will not be resurrected at the time of Techias Hamaisim (resurrection of the dead). (When one is a situation that necessitates having charges involved for use of money, there is a way to do this through a heter iska, a form that arranges the transaction as a business investment. See a competent Orthodox Rabbi if you need to make one.)

There was once a story in the town of Pozna, where the great Rabbi Akiva Eiger was the Rabbi. One of the wealthy Jews in town, who was known to have lent his money out with interest, passed away. The Chevra Kadisha, (Burial Society), who ran the Jewish cemetery, refused to bury the man until they received a tremendous amount of money for the plot. The family was very upset with them, and went to the local authorities to complain.

The local Governor called in Rav Akiva Eiger, and demanded from him an explanation as to why this family was being singled out to pay such a huge amount of money. Rav Akiva Eiger answered, that usually when we sell a burial plot, we believe that the sale is only temporary. When the time comes for resurrection of the dead, the ground will be emptied, and the land will go back to its original owner. In this case, however, the deceased had been involved in lending money for interest. Such a person will never arise at the time of Techias Hamaisim. The sale of the burial plot, then, is a permanent one. Such a sale is understandably permanent, and costs much more money. The Governor heard the explanation, and accepted it.