Friday, June 13, 2014

Fact-Checking the Torah -- pawns

Your assignment for this week was to read Exodus 22:24-26, Leviticus 25:35, Deuteronomy 24:6 and Deuteronomy 24:11-13, which are all about pawns.
When you loan silver to my people, to the poor with you, you shall not be urgent with him and you shall not place neshekh on him.
If you must take a pledge of the garment of your neighbor, by sundown you shall return it to him.
It is his only covering, the clothing to his skin, in what will he sleep and when he cries out to me I shall pay attention for I am gracious.
If your brother becomes poor and he stretches his hand out to you you shall strengthen him, he shall be a so-journer and in-dweller and live with you.
Nobody shall take both upper and lower millstone in pledge for that pledges a soul.
When you take collateral from your neighbor of anything, you shall not go into his house to pawn his pawned object.
If he is a poor man you shall not sleep with his pawned object.
You must return the pawned object to him when the sun goes down that he may sleep in his clothes and bless you and it will be righteousness for you before the Lord your Gd.
First, the pledge cannot be kept by the creditor when the debtor needs it.  Most people only had one set of day clothing and maybe a cloak that doubled as a blanket, the way the verses imply.
Second, the creditor cannot take all a person’s tools as pledges; that’s a ruling that grew out of the verse about the millstone.  If he has two complete toolkits, the creditor can take one.  If he has two sizes of tools in his kit, the creditor can take one size.
Third, the home is a refuge.  The creditor can’t go inside, he has to knock and wait for the pledge to be brought out to him. 
All of this is very different from rules in, for example, Britain of the 1700s and 1800s CE.  Novels may exaggerate for effect, but more than one novel from those periods describes “an execution in the house,” when the creditors would enter and seize its contents.  They could also “place an arrest on the body” of a deceased debtor and prevent burial until the family could come up with some way to promise payment.  If there was no other way, there would be a “sheriff’s sale”.  Novels tell of ladies going to these sales to see what happens to ornaments they may have envied on their friends.
There’s one final kind of loan I haven’t talked about, the “mortgage.”  For next week, read Exodus 23:10-11 and Leviticus 25:8-13.
 © Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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