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Parashat Behar-Bechukotai: The Meaning of Dwelling in the Land

This week’s parasha is parashat Behar. In the parasha, we read the following verse:

וְהָאָ֗רֶץ לֹ֤א תִמָּכֵר֙ לִצְמִתֻ֔ת כִּי־לִ֖י הָאָ֑רֶץ כִּֽי־גֵרִ֧ים וְתוֹשָׁבִ֛ים אַתֶּ֖ם עִמָּדִֽי.

The land shall not be sold in eternity, for the land is mine, for you are sojourners and dwellers with me (Leviticus: 25:23).

What is the significance of this verse and what is it trying to teach us about living in the land?

I believe that it is teaching us a very important lesson, both as individuals and as a nation. We live in a very object-focused society, in a society which emphasizes property, ownership, control.

The Torah here tells us that we have to try and fight against this mentality. We think of ourselves as owners of property and we think even of our nation as owners of our land.

And yet the Torah teaches us that the true owner of all property and the Land of Israel, is God.

We are just foreigners – גרים,  תושבים – sojourners. We are here today and gone tomorrow and we have to remember that what is most important is not to make ourselves owners and controllers and buyers and see everything around us as commodities but we must remember that we are all equal, we are all people living together and the most important thing is our relationships as human beings and to value those relationships.

And so the Torah reminds us– כי גרים ותושבים  – no matter who you are, you are all residents. I am the owner. You should see everything around you not as something to own, not as something to be had and controlled, but as a place where you should live out your life in meaningful relationships.

Shavua Tov from Schechter.

David Frankel has served as a senior Bible lecturer at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies since 1992. He earned his PhD at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the direction of Prof. Moshe Weinfeld. His publications include “The Murmuring Stories of the Priestly School: and “The Land of Canaan and the Destiny of Israel.”  From 1991 to 1996, Rabbi Dr. Frankel was rabbi of Congregation Shevet Achim in Gilo, Jerusalem.

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