In the book of Deuteronomy, God uses a type of ‘carrot and stick’ method to persuade the Jewish people to observe his laws in the land of Israel. One of the curses that God threatens them with if they don’t observe his commandments is that they will be in debt to other nations. And since 1948, Israel has indeed been in debt to other nations. But following a recent announcement by Prime Minister Netanyahu, that has just been reversed.
In this time of international crisis, affecting nearly every nation in the world, and plunging the economy into the worse recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, Israel just issued a $5 billion bond offering. Amazingly, this bond offering was oversubscribed by a factor of 5 times that, meaning that Israel could have borrowed $25 billion. The interest rate that Israel got was also very competitive. Lower credited countries typically have to pay higher interest, and Israel is considered to have a high credit rating, so the interest was lower.
This bond offering was made as part of the emergency economic measures to stabilize the economy, as a result of the Corona shutdown. This is a dramatic event for a number of reasons. Typically it often takes weeks or months to do such bond offerings. This offering was done in just a few days, which given the current economic context, was spectacular.
With the default of Lebanon, and the general international economic downfall due to the Corona virus, which is affecting all developed countries, the fact that “smart money” was immediately available for Israel, at very generous interest rates, indicates a profound confidence in Israel’s economy, and our ability to get out of the crisis relatively unhurt. Also, the international economic community (banks, insurance companies, pension funds, etc…), respect and hope that PM Netanyahu will be an economic guru, and help steer the Israeli economy back to solid growth and affluence.
In fact, the nations of the world may actually be inspired by Israel, and observe what we will do to bring our economy back to life, and they may follow our lead.
One crucial point, even with Israel’s increased international debt obligations as a result of this bond offering, from the late 1990s until today, Israel has become a net CREDITOR to the international community. This was one of the curses that God warned would befall the Jewish people if they did not observe his laws in the land:
The stranger in your midst shall rise above you higher and higher, while you sink lower and lower. he shall be your creditor, but you shall not be his; he shall be the head and you the tail. (Deuteronomy 28:43-44)
It is not every day we witness before our very eyes a curse moving to a blessing. And this blessing is mentioned several passages earlier in the same chapter as a promise of what will happen if the Jewish people do indeed observe God’s laws in the land of Israel:
For Hashem your God will bless you as He has promised you: you will extend loans to many nations, but require none yourself; you will dominate many nations, but they will not dominate you. ( Deuteronomy 15:6)
It is mentioned again later on in Deuteronomy as well:
Hashem will open for you His bounteous store, the heavens, to provide rain for your land in season and to bless all your undertakings. You will be creditor to many nations, but debtor to none. (Deuteronomy 28:12)
On the opposite side, as a blessing, Israel will not only lend to the world, becoming a net creditor, but also dominate other nations and not be dominated by them. In 2001, Israel officially became a net creditor nation, for the first time in Israel’s history, the loans and investments abroad exceeded the debt to the foreign nations and banks. Ever since, this has had a profound affect on Israel’s economy, also indirectly leading to the fastest economic growth of nearly any nation in the world.
This also coincides with a newfound influence on the affairs of other nations, and Israel has started the process of becoming a leader (head), not a tail. There are a number of examples, but the most important example close to home is a new alliance between Greece, Cyprus and Israel – where Israel is the leading and most important member.
On September 2021, the next Shmittah (Sabatical) year will commence. Many commentators say that the “blessings and curses” from the Torah is a result if Israel keeps or doesn’t keep the Shmitta. Until now, Shmitta was a “Derabbanan” mitsvah, meaning that it has been a Rabbinical commandment. As such, certain Rabbis decided on workarounds for the Shmittah.
For instance the Heter Mechira – fictious selling of the land to non-Jews. This Schmitta will be different than any other since the fall of King Solomon’s Temple, about 2500 years ago. What will be different is that now, for the first time, the majority of the world’s known Jews (the lost 10 tribes do not count), are in Israel. This means that the Shmitta will no longer be Rabbinic in nature, but De-Raita – an obligatory Torah mitsvah, meaning that Rabbinic workarounds may no longer apply.
Now we are coming full circle. Hashem has given Israel a blessing of becoming a creditor nation, and from the Torah, expects us to keep the Shmitta. If we don’t keep the Shmitta, maybe this blessing will again become a curse. Let’s hope not.