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Devarim 15:7 cautions us not to withhold help to others because of the approach of the shmittah year. However, the help we would expect to give would be charity and thus would not be repaid. If tzeddakah is actually a gift, why would anyone not give it in the 6th year because of shmittah? There should be no expectation of repayment that would be nullified by shmittah. Rashi in pasuk 8 (vha'avet ta'avitenu) confirms that the initial offer we should make should be a gift and only turn it to a loan if the recipient won't accept a gift. So why would the shmittah year discourage tzeddakah?

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How did people eat during a shmittah year before modern work-arounds like hydroponics, if their stores weren't sufficient? If they bought food, potentially at higher prices than what it would cost to grow their own, maybe they'd be tempted to hold extra money back for that? –  Monica Cellio Aug 19 '12 at 2:43
    
from what Vayikra 25 seems to say, everything is available to all people (5-7) and pasuk 19 says that the stores will be more than sufficient. –  Danno Aug 19 '12 at 2:49
    
Dan, it seems the entire portion is referring to lending. The Rashi commenting on an allusion of the pasuk that one should initially gift, but the simple flow of words refers to a loan. –  YDK Aug 20 '12 at 4:40
    
@YDK but that's the problem. It can only make sense if it is lending, but the portion is dealing with the destitute. Is every act of charity supposed to be a loan? –  Danno Aug 20 '12 at 14:34
    
OK, so your question is that the Torah demands a gift, while the loan is only an option if the recipient refuses a gift, so where does the problem of shmittah arise? –  YDK Aug 21 '12 at 1:12
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2 Answers

I think the point is the opposite, that you would think Shmitta is approaching, so you won't lend with any expectation of repayment, so the Torah is saying then give it as a gift, or make it a loan if the person is too proud to take a gift.

However, I would point out that in general the concept of a loan here is really tzedakah that you have minimal reason to expect back. You are not allowed to demand collection of the loan (source and see the whole article for more), not allowed to charge interest and (we see from this posuk) not allowed to assess credit worthiness (to an extent). That is charity wrapped in a loan. However, for the sake of making it a real loan, the lender has real rights to collect the money, it just isn't supposed to happen.

Regarding your comment, yes a loan can be preferable to giving (source).

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but if the loan is really "tzedakah that you have minimal reason to expect back" then why would the upcoming shmittah be a concern? –  Danno Aug 20 '12 at 15:50
    
@Dan, because you might not view it correctly. This verse is part of what establishes that. –  Yishai Aug 20 '12 at 16:06
    
so this section is less about loans and more about the proper attitude towards loans -- don't give them with an expectation of repayment in ANY year. The fact that I say it about the 6th year proves that all loans should be viewed as tzeddakah. –  Danno Aug 20 '12 at 16:09
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According to the Gemara (Makkos 4b IIRC), the only loans which are forgiven are those that are past due. So the person may pay on time (or before Shmittah kicks in)- if he does, I get the whole loan back.

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