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Yacov Fruchter on Parashat Behar

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Most people who purchase a home today in any Canadian city with a significant Jewish population do so with the understanding that they will be paying off this home for years to come. For many, that moment of making a final mortgage payment represents the greatest sense of accomplishment and freedom that they experience in their lives. Today, even the process of purchasing a home (read: borrowing a huge sum of money from a bank) may feel like the achievement of a goal and come with a sense of satisfaction.

Yet, our parashah clearly articulates the prohibition against charging interest, and many rules associated with the idea of property sales and transfers being temporary. Then we get to this verse: “The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land belongs to Me, for you are strangers and (temporary) residents with Me” (Leviticus 25:23).

While we may read this principle as only applying to the Land of Israel, it seems God is reminding us of our mortality and the limited time we have in this world, and that the property and belongings we amass are not coming with us when our time on this earth has come to an end.

Rabbi David Wolpe comments on this parashah that “nothing belongs to us and everything we have is because of gifts that we received,” including different kinds of privilege, such as talent, intellect, family wealth and the era and country in which we live. He adds that even if we were gifted with business acumen, it wouldn’t matter if we lived in a place with no business opportunities.

Jewish living is a blueprint for how to acknowledge the gifts that we received from God, including opportunities to be proud of what we were able to achieve with these gifts, and ultimately is meant to teach us humility, self-awareness and the drive to use these gifts to make life sweeter for those who may not experience this world as pleasantly as we do.

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