"If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter with you... he shall have
a redemption." Leviticus 25:35-48
The Hebrew word for "impoverished" is "yamuch". It is used three times, each in a different situation. The
first case is if a person is impoverished and needs to borrow money. The Torah warns us not to take interest from him. The
second case is if he declines further and must sell himself as a slave to a fellow Israelite. In the third case, he is forced
to sell himself to a non-Israelite who is residing in the land of Israel. Here the Torah speaks of the ultimate degradation.
We may wonder what caused this Israelite to become so poor that he wound up in this terrible situation. The key lies in the
words "he becomes impoverished with him." (Leviticus 25:47)
The Rabbis explain that it is due to "his cleaving to the non-Jew and following his ways." The Jew
had opted for the company of the non-Jew and was moving away from his people. What now? One might think that he has forfeited
his right to the mercy of his fellow Jews. Nonetheless, even after he has been sold, "he shall have a redemption." One of
his family is urged to pay and redeem him out of his slavery. (Leviticus 25:48)
This is a very important lesson. The Torah points out that this person was wrong. Still, regardless
of his foolish actions, the Israelite still deserved redemption. We are required to help, but we must first determine that
the help we give will not lead the person to further corruption.