Redemption in Our Land in Our Time
davar acher by Greg Weisman
The journey through the Book of Leviticus, which comes to a close this week with the double portion B’har/B’chukotai, is one that prepares the Israelites to dwell in the Land of Israel. So much of this week’s parashah speaks to the responsibilities incumbent upon our ancestors in relation to themselves, to God, and to the Land of Israel once they inherited the Land. These laws apply to a land in which many of us do not live, and were written at a time three thousand years before ours. But even in our land in our time, B’har/B’chukotai has much to teach us.
The double parashah instructs that when someone has fallen on hard times and has had to sell a portion of their land, a relative must come and redeem the land in the Jubilee year, restoring ownership to the family (Leviticus 25:25). Our society today has no such redemption nor celebration of Jubilee. But that does not mean that we should not have the same care and concern for our friends and relatives that the g’ulah, “redemption,” of the parashah mandates. We ought to see ourselves as responsible for those with whom we are close, those we care for, those with whom we cast our lot. The Torah mandated it for our ancestors; today we should choose to see that mandate through out of the goodness of our heart.
What does redemption look like in 2015? It is families banding together to weather the continuing fallout of the financial crisis that still affects so many in our communities. It is synagogues developing and resourcing scholarship funds to ensure that no one who wishes to join is turned away. It is communities working with social service organizations to offer job training, debt counseling, and networking opportunities. Above all of this, redemption is offering emotional and spiritual support for all, care recipients and caregivers together, to fill our land with holiness and joy.
Rabbi Greg Weisman is assistant rabbi at Temple Beth El of Boca Raton, Florida.