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Do Not Covet and Desire1 Part 2

In part one of the prohibition of coveting the items of one's fellow, we saw that there were in fact two separate prohibitions; 'loh tachmod' (do not covet) and 'loh tisaveh' (do not desire). Loh tachmod prohibits cajoling, pressuring, or embarrassing someone into selling him something that the owner really did not want to sell. Loh titaveh prohibits merely thinking and scheming how to pressure one's fellow into selling him the item. Thus, even if one only plans how to attain the item in such a fashion and never proceeds, he nonetheless transgresses the Torah commandment of 'loh titaveh'.

Do these prohibitions also apply to pressuring a person to give an item as a gift? Many authorities say that this does indeed constitute a transgression of these Mitzos. For example, a son asked his father-in-law to forgo trading his car, and rather give it to him. The father explained that the car was expensive. Nevertheless the son-in-law persisted in making the request, and finally the father was cornered into giving away the car. The son-in-law was guilty of 'loh sachmod'. Similarly, many authorities prohibit pressuring someone to rent out an item to them, or to loan them money.

The prohibitions of loh tachmod and loh titaveh do not apply to the acquisition of property from non-Jews. In order to understand this law, it is necessary to discuss a principle that underlies the Torah outlook towards inter-personal relationships. The Torah stresses that every human being is created in the Image of G-d and accordingly, must be treated in a respectful manner. However, it is understood that people treat members of their family in a more favorable manner than everyone else. Thus, it is normal for people to lend each other money and charge interest, whereas one would not charge interest on a loan to his brother or son.

The Torah teaches us that the Jewish people are equivalent to one 'family'. Although all Jews are not necessarily genetically related to each other[2] , nonetheless we are spiritually related in a common covenant that makes us like one family. Accordingly, whilst a Jew treats everyone with care and concern, he acts towards his fellow Jew with extra consideration. Thus, for example a Jew is forbidden from lending his fellow Jew with interest[3] . Similarly, it is normal for non-Jews to pressure one another to sell items, so too Jews are not obligated to act any differently from how non-Jews act between themselves. However, one must be very careful that all his business interactions are conducted in a respectable manner, to engender a kiddush HaShem (sanctification of G-d's name) and avoid causing a chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d's name).


[1] Much of the information for this essay is taken from "Halachos of Other People's Money" by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner.
[2] This is certainly the case because of the numerous converts that have joined Judaism throughout history.
[3] Parshas Mishpatim, 22:24.


Text Copyright 2009 by Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen and Torah.org

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