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Mishlei Appendix 02 – Commitments

Mishlei Appendix 02 – Commitments

Loan Guarantees


“Give no sleep to your eyes and slumber to your eyelids.
Hurry to escape like a deer from the power of the trap,
and like a bird from the power of the snare.

[Mishlei 06-01] Wishful Thinking. To illustrate the dangers of wishful thinking, Mishlei uses the example of the foolish person who agrees to guarantee a loan. The problem is that there is always a risk of the loan not being repaid. If a large sum of money is involved, he may be exposing himself to an obligation far in excess of what he is able to pay. Mishlei urges the guarantor to unwind his obligation before the due date of the loan, when it may be too late.

Misfortune will befall the one who guarantees a loan to an unreliable stranger
but a hater of handshake commitments to guarantee loans will be secure.

[Mishlei 11:15] Misfortune. Mishlei calls attention to the misfortune that can occur when someone whom we don’t really know very well turns out to be untrustworthy. It is wishful thinking to think that we will be able to fend off the lender if the borrower defaults on the loan and it is foolish to think we will be able to recover our investment from the insolvent borrower. Mishlei contrasts the potential tragedy of confrontation and quarrel with the security and peace of mind a person has when he avoids such insecure commitments altogether.

A man who lacks wisdom makes a commitment
to guarantee a loan for his friend

[Mishlei 17-18] Unwise. This proverb describes the commitment to guarantee a loan as the act of an unwise person. He is unwise because he has not given sufficient thought to the possibility that he is exposing himself to an unexpected debt. The implication is that before making any kind of commitment a person needs to give careful consideration to the likelihood of his having to fulfill that commitment and the potential difficulty that he may have in meeting that obligation.

“Take his garment, because he has co-signed for a stranger,
and for an alien woman, take collateral from him.”

[Mishlei 20-16] Collateral. Generally, when a loan becomes due for payment, the Torah protects the borrower by restricting the ability of the creditor from seizing items of collateral (Shemos 22:25). However, to discourage people from volunteering as guarantors, the Torah removes such restrictions when the creditor seizes possessions of the guarantor.  Mishlei now reminds the creditor that he has full authority to seize personal items belonging to guarantor as long as the loan remains unpaid.