Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Cheshvan 5760 - November 3, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
An Act of Chessed - Pass it On
by Menucha Levin

[Editor's note: the following is not meant to be a green light for everyone to sign up as guarantors. We must continue to protect ourselves, but not overprotect ourselves. And the message remains clear and valid: there is only One Guarantor.]

Seven years ago, with all the innocence and hope of newcomers, we attempted to buy our first apartment in Israel. This experience, looking back on it now, was not very different from two other major life events: planning our wedding and having our first child. Although we knew the end result would be worth it, the experience itself was fraught with tension, drama, a multitude of frustrations and, of course, most importantly and first and last, Divine intervention.

We had no idea that this simple purchase would turn out to be so difficult and complicated. Among the varied obstacles, we discovered that no matter how much (or how little) money we had or what kind of mortgage we could get, the bottom line was -- we would need guarantors. Three legal guarantors. Areivim.

How quickly I grew to detest that word. But even if we could get people willing to sign for us, they had to meet certain criteria. First, they had to be Israeli citizens. That, in itself, was a problem. New immigrants ourselves, most of our friends were in the same category. They also had to be employed with a provable salary and paycheck. Another problem, since my husband was learning in a kollel at the time, as were most of his friends. Others we knew worked unofficially or in home-based jobs without those crucial payslips. All in all, it was a most worrisome situation.

Then, to top it all off, a local newspaper came out with an article pointing out the dangers involved in being a guarantor, with frightening real-life stories of what could happen if the apartment owner stopped making his payments and the guarantor was left `holding the bag'. Someone else told me an alleged true story of how a guarantor was arrested and hauled off to jail in the middle of his Purim seuda. At first he thought it was a poor Purim joke, but, unfortunately, it wasn't.

With all that, we began to lose hope of ever being able to buy our own apartment and almost became resigned to being doomed to remaining permanent renters, having to move every few years. Then, one day at the bus stop, I noticed a young mother struggling to get her baby and stroller onto the bus. Although my youngest child was then four and past the age of strollers, I could still vividly remember my own struggles of boarding and alighting from buses that way. I rushed over to help, she thanked me and we chatted all the way to town.

I saw this woman, we'll call her Tova, around the neighborhood a few times after that and we greeted each other at the women's Shabbos shiur, but that was about it.

One morning, after a quick trip to the store, I bumped into her again and we walked down the road together. She asked how I was and I spontaneously poured out all my frustrations about trying to buy an apartment, especially the guarantor problem. Tova listened sympathetically and mentioned that when they had tried to buy their apartment two years previously, the law then required FIVE guarantors! With great difficulty, they had managed to find four people, but time was quickly running out and they still could not fine anyone else. She went to the bank, and, with a feeling of total desperation, which I could fully relate to, watched as a religious man signed to be someone else's guarantor.

Tova walked up to this stranger, explained the problem, and asked him if he would sign for her, too. Although he had never seen her before in his life, the man miraculously agreed. A few minutes later, her husband walked in with their rov, their fourth guarantor. The rov and the kind stranger knew each other and, of course, the former vouched for Tova and her husband. A true case of Divine Providence.

Then Tova, who had experienced this amazing act of chessed, turned to me and spoke a few, wonderful quiet words. "I'll sign for you," she said. She did not hesitate with, "Well, I'll ask my husband and we'll think it over," or "I'll let you know," like others we had asked -- and whose answers we were still waiting for. In fact, I hadn't even asked Tova at all! She had volunteered. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for her deed of pure kindness and trust.

One act of chessed surely leads to another. And that was how I found myself at the bank, not long ago, signing for another couple. Having lived in a tiny apartment for years and outgrown it by far, they wanted to buy a larger place for their expanding family. Although busy with my son's bar mitzva preparations at the time, I went to sign for them. Indeed, I felt compelled -- and glad -- to do so. And when they thanked me, I told them this story.

I have since discovered that the modern term for signators goes all the way back to Mt. Sinai -- kol Yisroel AREIVIM zeh lozeh. We are all responsible for one another. And indeed, we should be concerned about each other and try to help when and where we can.

Let us keep the chain of kindness going. It doesn't have to be only for the big, important things in life, like signing for someone's apartment. It can be any small and simple act of kindness, performed daily as the opportunity arises, like helping a mother and her baby onto a bus. Or holding a door open for a person with packages, or cooking a meal for someone who is ill or after birth. You never know where these things can lead...

A friendly smile, a phone call, a compliment or word of encouragement, like ripples in a pond that expand. Cast your favors upon the waters and watch them spread.

An act of chessed -- pass it on.

Editor's Note: There are currently no official regulations governing the need and number of guarantors. Different banks have different requirements, and sometimes, some of them, can be flexible in their requirements. Readers can let banks know that the number of guarantors they must bring is an important factor in their choice of a mortgage bank. It makes a difference.


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