Rabbi David Walk
This week we celebrated Yom Ha'Atzmaut, the 63rd birthday of the State which represents the latest chapter in our love affair with the
I really want to discuss one aspect of these Zionist laws, and that is the law that land can't be sold permanently in
However, even though Judaism can't divorce social issues from its religious agenda, I'd like to focus on the spiritual concepts in these mitzvoth. When you read the verse which commands this principle, we Jews almost feel like chaperones on a date. It's like the land and God have something going on, and we're just passing through. The inability to own the land permanently seems to reflect and emphasize the ephemeral nature of our stay here on planet earth, while God and the land will be there forever. Since we love God and the land, we should view ourselves as responsible caretakers for the short period that we have control of the land. To a certain extent we should view the land as we view our own DNA. We carefully and affectionately pass it along to the next possessors. These parcels of land are like our children, to foster and nurture.
The next verse intensifies the spiritual nature of this commandment. It says: Therefore, throughout the land of your possession, you shall give redemption for the land (verse 24). Even though there is a social aspect of the precept. We should redeem land in the sense of buying it back for the family even before the fiftieth year has been reached. Nevertheless we can't ignore the spiritual overtones of the language, especially in this season between Pesach and Shavuot. Redemption is primarily a spiritual category and only secondarily has a financial connotation. In other words, we must feel the need to redeem the land much as we feel the urgency to redeem captives or hostages. I believe that there are three ideas in redeeming the land: first, to buy it back from sources other than the original family; next, for society, to help the poor reestablish themselves, and, finally, for some spiritual or mystical connection of the land to God.
What does that last idea mean? We could answer that there is some special relationship with the land and God because of all the historical events which transpired upon that hallowed ground. Perhaps, we could say it's because this land was the land bridge connecting the continents of Europe, Asia and
The reality that
But what can we do to redeem a land already blessed and cared for by God?
Rav Amital OB"M wrote of a letter from Rav Eliyahu Guttmacher, one of the leading disciples of R. Akiva Eiger, written in 1874, in which he asserts that if there would be 130 families working the land in Eretz Yisrael, this would be considered the "beginning of the redemption." We redeem the land by working it and loving it, and it responds by blossoming and flowering. And, we should never view ourselves as the outside third party in the love affair between God and the land, because our Talmud (Ketubot 111b) proclaims that any Jew dwelling outside of
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