These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

בהר, behar

Posted on May 15, 2011 by Avi Strausberg

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Some of us grew up in childhood homes, to whose rooms we can still return.   family photos still adorn the staircase.  glass jars still line the counter.  crayon is still scrawled on the walls marking our growth through our youth.  yet, for many of us, that idealic home is long since gone.  we have moved.  our parents have moved.  and the home, if still standing, has changed numerous times no longer bearing our family’s imprint.

in parshat behar, the Torah presents a totally unusual piece of property law, foreign to our capitalist mindset.  the Torah introduces the concept of the jubilee year.  during the יובל (jubilee year), the Torah instructs, “ושבתם איש אל–אחזתו ואיש אל משפחתו תשבו, each of you shall return to his holding and each of you shall return to his family” (vayikra 25:10).

this is an incredible revelation in property law.  every time the יובל rolls around, that old family holding returns to the rightful ownership of the original tenants, regardless of whatever debts caused ownership to transfer in the first place.  not only does the property return to the family’s hands, but the family itself must return to each other.  however, there’s one catch:  the יובל only rolls around every 50th year.  yes, you will return.  or, perhaps it will be your grandchildren that return, to a land and to a home, lost 50 years before.

a lot can change in 50 years.  nowadays, we all travel far and wide, siblings separted by continents, some of us never returning to the home in which we grew up.  for me, economic factors aside, the יובל represents a time in which there was a family home and a piece of land to which we were all tied.  and while i like my freedom to move every year, crossing time zones as i go, i also appreciate the the idea that once in a long while, we all meet back up at the old watering hole and remember the places from which we came.

a tire swing hangs
lonely.  waiting for children,
who have now grown old.

may our memories be sweet and stay with us in our travels,