The rav was not a wealthy man, but earned enough to live comfortably. He earned his money by serving as the rav of a religious community in Yerushalayim. He also received some royalties from sefarim he had written over the years. He was well known, and many people approached him for a berachah, advice and help. They were not turned away.
One day a young man whom the rav recognized as someone from the neighborhood approached him with a request. Yosef (name and other details have been changed) told him that he was in dire need of a loan. He was not requesting a personal loan from the rav; rather he was asking for the rav’s signature. Yosef explained that he had already applied for a loan, but was required to procure the signature of someone trustworthy who was willing to serve as a guarantor. If he were unable to make his monthly payments the bank would turn to the guarantor, who would then have to make good on the loan.
“I would never ask the rav to sign this paper if I was not absolutely certain I could repay it on my own. I prefer having someone discreet like you to sign this loan for me.”
The rav had never been asked to do this before, and decided to consider the issues involved.
“Before I can commit to this, I must know the amount of the loan you are requesting. If I feel it is not too large a sum for me to handle in case you could not repay it yourself, then I will gladly sign it for you.”
Yosef had a sheepish grin on his face as he quietly said, “It is for 100,000 shekels.” The rav knew this amount was out of his reach, and he regretfully turned Yosef down.
“Perhaps,” he suggested, “you can figure out a way to substantially reduce the loan. If that were the case, I would sign as guarantor in good conscious.”
A few weeks went by, and Yosef returned to the rav. In his hand were some papers.
“It is all taken care of. The rav can rest easily and sign for my loan now. I did what you suggested, and the amount of the loan is much reduced.”
The rav, as usual, was very busy. He had a roomful of people waiting for an audience with him. He did not take the time to read over the amended form, but took Yosef at his word. He signed on the spot indicated by Yosef.
“I hope this loan helps you,” he said.
Several months later, the rav received a letter from the bank. Yosef had reneged on his loan. It was now the responsibility for the rav to repay it. The amount owed was 100,000 shekels.
The rav was in shock. He had been trustful, and had not checked the amount before signing on as guarantor. He now had to figure out a way to repay this debt, which had suddenly become his responsibility. He did not consider going after Yosef.
The rav made an appointment with the bank and pleaded his case. A reduced payment schedule was established. The rav began to think of ways to cut his family’s expenses in order to meet the monthly payments.
He did not want to upset his wife, but realized he could not keep the situation hidden from her. He told her how he had signed as a guarantor for someone. He told her how the man had tricked him into signing for such a large loan. He told her how he was now obligated to repay it. He did not tell her who the man was. He did not want to bring his wife to a state of anger or resentment against the man or his family.
About a year later, the rav’s wife had to travel out of the country for a conference.
She felt lonely, not knowing anyone in the large conference hall. Suddenly, her face lit up. A few feet away stood a woman she recognized from home.
With a big smile on her face, she approached the woman.
“Talia, it’s so nice to see you. How are you and your family? How wonderful to see someone I know while I’m so far from home.”Debbie Garfinkel Diament
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