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Leviticus 25:1-26:2

His Responsibility And Mine

As we have said in the previous editions of 5 Minute Torah, our current Torah portion is focused almost exclusively on the laws of the Shemitah (the sabbatical year) and the Yovel (the Jubilee, or 50th year). It describes how farmers living in Israel should allow their land to rest on the seventh year and depend on Hashem for their livelihood while they are not sowing or harvesting, or pruning their vineyards. It tells how the fiftieth year should be a year to release both land and indentured servants. It then speaks of how one should treat a poor person who sells himself into a position of servitude, followed by how the community should work to redeem a brother who has become impoverished and sold himself to a foreigner. It concludes with a prohibition against idolatry and a reminder to honor the Sabbath, as well as the Tabernacle.

Living in a time nearly two thousand years removed from the Holy Temple when the land of Israel is not governed by a righteous king, nor a religious court, do these laws have any significance for us today? Although not all of them, some of them continue to have the same application as they did in the days of the Holy Temple. For example, the religious Jewish community in Israel observes the Shemitah and has strict rules about produce grown on Jewish-owned land within the boundaries of Israel during the seventh year. These laws do not apply to non-Jews living within Israel, nor to land outside of Israel, and they are not enforced by a civil court. Another aspect is related to debts. Religious Jews continue to absolve all personal debts from other Jews in the Shemitah whether in Israel or the Diaspora, the land outside of Israel.

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