Mishnat Hashavua': Shevi’it 10:8

When may you accept or decline additional favors?

If someone seeks to repay a debt during the sabbatical year [even though his debt has been canceled], the lender should say, "I forgive the loan." If the borrower says, "even so" [I am paying you], then the lender can take it, as the Torah says, "this is the word of the annulment" (Deut. 15:2). Similarly, if a killer has been exiled to a city of refuge, and the local people wish to honor him, he should say to them, "I am a killer." If they say to him, "even so," then he can accept [the honor] from them, as the Torah says, "this is the word of the killer" (Deut. 19:4).

Comment

The Torah extends unusual protections to those who are vulnerable such as a borrower, whose loans get canceled every seven years, and an unintentional killer, who may live safely in exile. This Mishnah picks up on Deuteronomy’s unnecessary use of "davar" (the word) to ask what type of agency these individuals may exercise when negotiating with their neighbors.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What motivates the rabbis to give these permissions?
  2. Are the biblical commandments being honored or evaded?
  3. When should a person decline benefits and honors?