Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The meaning of the name of God

Today is the 25th of Shebat, 5770

The name of God is written in one way and is read in a different way. When this happens elsewhere in Biblical Hebrew, it is called keri/ketib, which means: a word is written in a certain way but must be read in a different way. To signal this event, the original word’s consonants are combined with the vowels of the word that should be pronounced. In our case, the four letters of God’s name are combined with the 3 vowels of the word AMONAY (read with D, instead of M): Chataf Patach, Cholam Chaser and Kamess. (It is confusing for the beginner because he might fail to see the Chataf Patach, which under a Yod became a Sheva…).

According to its writing, the name of God means “The Eternal.” The four letters of His holly name are the combination of the Hebrew “He was”, “He is” and “He will be”. The concept of “Eternity/Infinity” is obviously beyond our ability to grasp accurately.

Therefore when we read it we say: AMONAY (idem.): “The Lord” which in Hebrew stands for authorship / ownership. This concept is obviously more accessible to our understanding.

Whenever we pronounce the name of God we have to think about its double meaning: that He is Adon haKol, the Owner/Master of everything that exists, and that He is Ineffable, Infinite, Eternal, therefore, beyond our human, limited understanding.

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Ribbit": The prohibition of lending money with interest (2)

24th of Shebat, 5770

As explained previously, it is forbidden for a Jew to lend or borrow money with interest (“Ribbit”). This includes loans that are made between friends or family members. Even though everything is in good spirits and everyone is fine with it, it is forbidden, as it promotes a bad habit.

Illustration: Because he had forgotten his wallet at home, Mark’s teenage daughter, Lynn, lends him $5 to pay the toll. Mark wants to reward his daughter. He wants to repay her back $10 for the $5 he borrowed. Even though he would do this willingly and in good spirit, he is not allowed to. By receiving $10 for $5, Lynn would be getting the wrong message regarding loans and interests.
Not only is it forbidden to lend/borrow with monetary interest, but any kind of interest is forbidden—even if it is through something other than money.

Illustration: Evan needs urgently a loan of $10K. Danny, who is renting an office in a building Evan owns, accepts to lend him the money he needs, which Evan will repay without interest, but with the condition that he gets one month of rent free. This is also Ribbit and is forbidden.

Note: The laws of “Ribbit” are very complex, especially in today’s corporate world of sophisticated financial and legal structures. Ours is a basic overview of the Halakha as found in Maimonides’s Mishne Tora and in Shulchan ‘Arukh. Please consult a competent rabbi with any practical questions (Halakha leMa’ase).