Temura 6 - 12
Rental or Purchase?
He loaned his money on interest and benefited from usury, so he shall not live. (Yechezkel 18:13)
This description of the fate in store for one who violates the Torah ban on usury serves as the source for Rabbi Yochanans position that the court does not coerce the usurer to return his ill-gained profit as it does a thief. The Prophets words indicate, explains Rabbi Yitzchak, that the usurer is doomed to death and is not granted the option of compensation. (There is a slight variation in the text of Rabbi Yitzchaks statement here from the way it appears in Bava Metzia (61b) where it is more clearly understood.)
Another application of this passage appears in the Midrash (Shmot Rabba 31:6). The term he shall not live is interpreted there as a Divine declaration that one who lives on usury in this world will not live in the next.
A story is told of a notorious usurer in a European town who exploited the poverty of his neighbors. When he passed away the Chevra Kadisha Burial Society decided to recoup the money which he had gouged from his borrowers by demanding an exorbitant price for his grave. The usurers family begrudgingly paid the sum but after the mourning period brought suit against the Society heads before a gentile court. The Checra Kadisha heads turned to their spiritual leader, the Torah giant Rabbi Akiva Eiger, to represent them in court.
When the judge hearing the case asked the rabbi why the usurers family was charged a price way out of line with what others were charged, he was offered this explanation:
It is the belief of Jews, your honor, that there will eventually be a resurrection of the dead. We therefore view the purchase of a grave as merely rental since the one buried there will eventually vacate it. A usurer, our Sages tell us, forfeits with this sin the privilege of resurrection. Remaining forever in his grave means that it is a permanent purchase for him. Your honor will certainly agree that there is a great different in price between renting and purchasing!
- Temura 6b
Animal and Animals
On Yom Kippur at Mincha we read as the haftara the entire Sefer Yona, which concludes with a Divine rebuke to the Prophet. Yonah is blamed for not showing sufficient compassion for the great city of Nineveh which has within it more than 120,000 people who dont know right from left and many an animal (Yona 4:11).
The use of this singular term for animals serves as a basis for a position of the Sages in our mishna regarding the transfer of the sanctity of one sacrificial animal to another, which although forbidden results in both animals being sacred. These Sages contend that this transmission of sanctity from one animal to another can be effective to many other animals. The fact that the Torah passage describing such transmission speaks in singular terms of a transfer of an animal to another animal (Vayikra 27:10) does not serve as a challenge to this position, because the passage in Yona shows that the singular term animal can be a reference to many animals.
The question arises, however, as to why G-d used the singular term for animals in his rebuke to Yona.
One possibility is that it was intended to subtly communicate the message which Rashi quotes from our Sages that the term animal here is a critique of the citys human inhabitants who were great men with the sense of an animal in their failure to recognize Who created them.
It may also be a way of distinguishing between the value of human and animal life, with only the former deserving of being counted.
- Temura 9a