[Editor's note: the following is not meant to be a green
for everyone to sign up as guarantors. We must continue to
ourselves, but not overprotect ourselves. And the message
clear and valid: there is only One Guarantor.]
Seven years ago, with all the innocence and hope of
attempted to buy our first apartment in Israel. This
back on it now, was not very different from two other major
planning our wedding and having our first child. Although we
the end result would be worth it, the experience itself was
with tension, drama, a multitude of frustrations and, of
importantly and first and last, Divine intervention.
We had no idea that this simple purchase would turn out to be
and complicated. Among the varied obstacles, we discovered
matter how much (or how little) money we had or what kind of
we could get, the bottom line was -- we would need
Three legal guarantors. Areivim.
How quickly I grew to detest that word. But even if we could
willing to sign for us, they had to meet certain criteria.
they had to be Israeli citizens. That, in itself, was a
immigrants ourselves, most of our friends were in the same
They also had to be employed with a provable salary and
Another problem, since my husband was learning in a kollel at
time, as were most of his friends. Others we knew worked
or in home-based jobs without those crucial payslips. All in
it was a most worrisome situation.
Then, to top it all off, a local newspaper came out with an
pointing out the dangers involved in being a guarantor, with
real-life stories of what could happen if the apartment owner
making his payments and the guarantor was left `holding the
Someone else told me an alleged true story of how a guarantor
arrested and hauled off to jail in the middle of his Purim
At first he thought it was a poor Purim joke, but,
With all that, we began to lose hope of ever being able to
own apartment and almost became resigned to being doomed to
permanent renters, having to move every few years. Then, one
the bus stop, I noticed a young mother struggling to get her
and stroller onto the bus. Although my youngest child was
and past the age of strollers, I could still vividly remember
struggles of boarding and alighting from buses that way. I
over to help, she thanked me and we chatted all the way to
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
shiur, but that was about it.
One morning, after a quick trip to the store, I bumped into
and we walked down the road together. She asked how I was and
poured out all my frustrations about trying to buy an
the guarantor problem. Tova listened sympathetically and
that when they had tried to buy their apartment two years
the law then required FIVE guarantors! With great difficulty,
had managed to find four people, but time was quickly running
and they still could not fine anyone else. She went to the
with a feeling of total desperation, which I could fully
watched as a religious man signed to be someone else's
Tova walked up to this stranger, explained the problem, and
him if he would sign for her, too. Although he had never seen
before in his life, the man miraculously agreed. A few
her husband walked in with their rov, their fourth
The rov and the kind stranger knew each other and, of
the former vouched for Tova and her husband. A true case of
Then Tova, who had experienced this amazing act of
turned to me and spoke a few, wonderful quiet words. "I'll
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!
volunteered. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for her deed of
kindness and trust.
One act of chessed surely leads to another. And that
I found myself at the bank, not long ago, signing for another
Having lived in a tiny apartment for years and outgrown it by
they wanted to buy a larger place for their expanding family.
busy with my son's bar mitzva preparations at the time, I
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
the way back to Mt. Sinai -- kol Yisroel AREIVIM zeh
We are all responsible for one another. And indeed, we should
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
for the big, important things in life, like signing for
apartment. It can be any small and simple act of kindness,
daily as the opportunity arises, like helping a mother and
onto a bus. Or holding a door open for a person with
cooking a meal for someone who is ill or after birth. You
where these things can lead...
A friendly smile, a phone call, a compliment or word of
like ripples in a pond that expand. Cast your favors upon the
and watch them spread.
An act of chessed -- pass it on.
Editor's Note: There are currently no official regulations
the need and number of guarantors. Different banks have
requirements, and sometimes, some of them, can be flexible in
requirements. Readers can let banks know that the number of
they must bring is an important factor in their choice of a
bank. It makes a difference.