Student Loan Forgiveness – What does the Torah say?

Shalom from Tiveryah!

US President Biden announced a Student Loan forgiveness plan which has stirred up quite a storm in America.

There are passionate supporters for the program, and passionate opinions against. Economic repercussions as well as moral and ethical issues are being argued.

As an Israeli, I don’t have a horse in this race, until people start using the Hebrew Torah to justify their position by taking the words and intent of the Torah out of context!!

I saw a number of posts on FB that claimed that it was right and even Godly to forgive student loans based on the following verses in Deuteronomy…

On the surface, this sounds like forgiving loans is always a good thing. But that is not what these verses are discussing nor teaching…

Shmittah – The Sabbatical Year in Israel

When the Bnei Yisrael – Children of Israel entered the Land of Israel with Joshua, they were instructed to count the years and every seventh year would be a Shmittah – Sabbatical year, and all Landlords would let their fields go fallow. (Exodus 23:10-11)

The fruits and vegetables that grow naturally in that year are considered public domain, and everyone is equally allowed to enjoy those fruits and vegetables. The Landlord must declare them “ownerless.”

Many people are aware that Shmittah relates to agricultural laws, but they aren’t as familiar with the concept of Shmittah related to money (ie. personal loans). In the Shmittah year, the lender is not allowed to Lord over the borrower and press him to pay back the loan. The lender must declare that the loan is not required to be repaid.

We are Family

The Jewish People (i.e. The Nation of Israel) are not just a religion. We are not a political entity and we are not a race. At our core, we are a Family. That’s why we are called B’nei Yisrael – The Children of Israel/Jacob.

Although we have different roles within the family (each Tribe has different functions), the Almighty structured His instructions to us in the Torah to ensure we treated each other within the Nation of Israel as brothers and sisters.

For example, if we have some savings in the bank that we are not using and our brother or sister asked us to borrow $1000, it would be unseemly to charge them interest. That would be treating them like a business opportunity rather than family. It would also be demeaning to the borrower as it says in Proverbs 22:7

עָשִׁיר בְּרָשִׁים יִמְשׁוֹל וְעֶבֶד לֹוֶה לְאִישׁ מַלְוֶה׃
The rich rule the poor,
And the borrower is a slave to the lender.
The Almighty does not want us to “Lord over” our brothers and sisters. There is only one Lord of the Universe.

Shabbat and Shmittah

After spending six days of the workweek playing “god” in our own little corner of the world, God wants the Nation of Israel to ‘rest’ (i.e. cease) from those activities, and let God run things for a day, and remind ourselves there is only One God in the Universe.

The same lesson is learned in the Shmittah year… we cease pretending to be the Lord over “our” land, and the Lord over “our” money – and our fellow Jews. We are reminded that we are all equal members of the Nation of Israel no matter how wealthy and powerful we seem to be compared to others.

Commercial Activity and Strangers

Without commercial activity, society would cease to exist. The only way to have a working economy is to allow for commercial credit, and for business owners to know that they will be able to collect commercial debt.  The Shmittah of forgiveness of debt does not apply in these situations even within the Jewish People.

The Torah default situation is that you may charge interest and collect on loans by suing in court.

The exception is not charging interest to family members, or forcing them to pay (Lording over them) during the Shmittah year when it arrives.

Moral Obligation

Even though the Lender to a family member must release the borrower from paying back the loan in the Shmittah year, that does not mean that the borrower should not pay back the “loan amount” as a gift to the Lender.

In fact the Sages tell us this is the praiseworthy thing to do. Otherwise if everyone always defaulted in the Shmittah year, people would stop lending money to their family knowing they would never get it back!

When borrowers “gift” back the money when they are not legally obligated to do so, it helps make them feel as equals with their wealthy brethren.

Student Loans in America – Slaves to the State

As you can see, the Laws of Shmittah do not apply to the Nations of the world. It also seems to me that the Student Loan was a commercial decision made by the student who borrowed from a commercial entity (bank) to invest in themselves (their future income potential) and is totally different than the situation described in the Shmittah laws.

As we saw in Proverbs above, when the Student took out the loan, they became a Slave to the Bank. When they take a handout from the government, now they become a Slave (beholden) to the State.

Perhaps that was the intent of the program all along. Perhaps it’s just an unintended consequence of people trying to help. You can decide.

Student Loan Forgiveness – What does the Torah say?

11 thoughts on “Student Loan Forgiveness – What does the Torah say?

  1. Wise commentary. There is a movement in America that is intentionally trying to make us beholden (enslaved) to the State. It’s disturbing how much they are influencing, especially our young. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. I agree with the comment made by Carol Fair about the push to push to enslave citizens, which by the way is a worldwide plan by a many Nations.
    Also, if this Loan Forgiveness was to make any sense, it would have to be rendered on a case by case need, to be really fair.

  3. As someone who spent years paying off my student loans with interest continuing to accrue at a high rate, I see definite problems with the system as it stands. Understanding that an educated populace benefits a nation, I believe that education at all levels should be free to students who are willing to do the work to maintain good grades, and then spend a couple of years post graduation giving back through some form of community service (although that contribution could be started while students are still getting their educations).

  4. I would also say that the student loans aren’t actually forgiven. The debt is passed on to the taxpayers. Someone is always forced to pay, so now we as taxiayers, are paying the loans back in money we never borrowed.

  5. ️♥️♥️♥️♥️️
    I agree. When someone twist the WORD Of HASHEM, then they are Committing MANY OFFENSES:

    1. They are Misrepresenting HASHEM & HIS WORD, spreading Lies.

    2. They are Committing Blasphemy because they are Misrepresenting HASHEM.

    3. They are Committing Idolatry, because they are putting themselves ABOVE HASHEM And HIS Perspective of HIS Sacred WORD.

    4. They are Misusing the WORD To Justify their “Lawless” Actions and deeds, like a predatory thief.

    5. As they Manipulate The WORD Of HASHEM, they are being Rebellious, and that is as the Sin of Witchcraft, that AD-NAI has also called an Abomination
    …that Is in the Tanakah.

    6. They are also Abusing the Loving Kindness and Goodness of our G-D.

    We must Pray for them to see the error of these actions AND Pray that we are all careful not to do the same thing, as we Study the WORD Of AD-NAI. HE deserves so much Honor, Respect and Love. He is Always Good, Fair, Just AND Righteous in ALL HIS Ways, ALL The time, and we Must Trust HIM and Respect HIM Enough to NEVER Blame HIM For any of our faults or mistakes. If any of us becomes Spiritually blind, may the LORD heal us so we can See HIS TRUTH From HIS PERSPECTIVE, Always walking in HIS WAYS Of Love, Mercy, Kindness and Light of TRUTH that makes our pathways straight and safe.

    Ani Shaalu Shalom Yerushalayim, Amen.

    August 30, 2022
    ~Sister Abagail~

  6. Great perspective from the Holy Word of [HaShem]. I completely agree. It is up to family and church to give to the poor, not the government.

  7. Forgiving student loans here in the USA is simply a way of buying votes prior to our midterm elections. We paid off both our childrens college tuitions, including an advanced degree. They entered the workforce with no debt because we worked, scrimped and saved. Now we are asked to foot the bill for lazy upper class students who hate the USA. I resent it greatly. If a man is able but unwilling to work, he should not eat.

  8. Thank you for the insight, Shmuel. Socialism, in any of its forms, is not a viable form of government. Our Constitution makes no provision for handling out our money in this manner. My parents paid for my education and I paid for my children’s’ education. I also made sure they didn’t get a “degree” in eighteenth century lesbian literature or some other such claptrap. Now we’re expected to pay-off $100K+ loans for these twits that now can’t get a decent job. Maybe Joe Biden can get them a really good job in his administration and we can continue to pay for them.

  9. My sons both had to work to pay off their student loans – one was blessed that an employer helped him, but he had worked to pay it off up to that point. Another son was blessed because his work paid all his tuition and he stayed fully employed and my youngest son had little or no loan debt as he worked full time while studying pretty much full time with night classes. When he began taking flying lessons for commercial pilot, he charged and I helped as I was able as his Mom, and he paid off all the credit cards he had used once he was teaching flying. I believe my two who worked all thru college and my other also who worked full time are stronger men because of paying off and not having just a handout from the Government. Do those taking the money realize they will be paying it back and then some in their future years of work thru higher income taxes that the Govt. will need to cover this if it goes through? I’m sure they have not thought that far ahead.

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