Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 179:1

We are now skipping ahead to the next siman that discusses fiscal integrity, the discussion of loans without the issue of profit or interest (already discussed in siman 65).

סִימָן קעט – הִלְכוֹת הַלְוָאָה

179: Laws of Lending

א: מצות עשה להלוות לעניי ישראל, שנאמר, אם כסף תלוה את-עמי את-העני עמך וגו’. ואף-על-גב דכתיב אם, קבלו חכמינו זכרונם לברכה, דאם זה, אינו רשות אלא חובה. הכי אמרינן במכלתא, אם-כסף תלוה את עמי, חובה. אתה אומר חובה, או אינו אלא רשות – מדכתיב אם, תלמוד לומר, העבט תעביטנו, חובה ולא רשות. והא דכתיב בלשון אם, פרושו, אם-כסף תלוה, את עמי תלוהו ולא לגוי. ולאיזה מעמי, לאותו שעמך. מכאן אמרו, עני שהוא קרובו, קודם לעניים אחרים. ועניי עירו, קדמים לעניי עיר אחרת. וגדולה מצות הלואה לעני, יותר ממצות צדקה לעני השואל, שזה כבר נצרך לשאל, וזה עדין לא הגיע למדה זו. והתורה הקפידה על מי שהוא נמנע מלהלוות לעני, שנאמר, ורעה עינך באחיך האביון וגו’. והמלוה לעני בשעת דחקו, עליו הכתוב אומר, אז תקרא וה’ יענה

There is a mitzvah of comission [mitzvas asei] to lend to the poor of [the People of] Israel. As it says “If you lend money to Ny nation, to the poor who is with you…” And even though it says “if”, our sages (of blessed memory) received [the tradition] that this “if” is not about something permissible, but rather an obligation. This is how they say it in the Mekhilta, “‘If you lend money to my nation’ — obligatory. You might say, “Obligatory? Or perhaps only something permissible, for it says ‘if’? Therefore it says ‘a loan you shall lend him’ — obligation, not just permissible. And that which it is written with the language ‘if’, it means, ‘if you lend money, lend it to My nation and not to [someone from] another people. And who among ‘My nation’? The one who is ‘with you’. From here they said, ‘a poor person who is his relative has priority to other poor. And the oor of his city are ahead of the poor of another city.’ The mitzvah of lending to the poor is greater than the mitzvah of charity to the poor who asks, because this one already had to ask, and that one didn’t reach that level yet. And the Torah is particular about someone who withholds from lending to the poor as it says, ‘And your eyes should look to your impoverished brother…’ And someone who lends to a poor person in his time of distress, about him the scripture says, “Then you will cal, and Hashem will answer.'”

The only thing not self-evident about this is the notion that relative comes before neighbor comes before foreigner, and Jew ahead of non-Jew.  And even that makes sense, after you read it. See also Rav Shim’on Shkop on “If I am not for me, who will be for me? And if I am for I myself, who would be?” (Introduction to Shaarei Yosher, pg. 4.)

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