The 50 Year Itch – Parshat Behar Behukotai 5772

It seems like the campaigning starts earlier and earlier with every election. As soon as a politician is voted into office, the reelection campaign starts. This may be a sign of our 24/7 media access, an obsession with the power struggle, or simply the evolution of politics.  Although the era of the constant campaign doesn’t seem to help the ever more partisan landscape, it’s also reassuring to be reminded that no one person will have all the authority indefinitely.
For all its blemishes, the real beauty of a democratic society is that our country never really belongs to one person, and it’s never managed by the same person for more than eight years. It’s our built-in level that helps to restore balance.
This week we read a double portion, Behar-Behukotai, which focuses primarily on the laws of agriculture and land.  What makes this section of text unique is that it takes the notion of land ownership and farming and uses that to create a society in which no one group holds complete power forever.  We read about the 50-year land ownership cycle in which we are required to allow the land to rest every 7th year.  In the 50th year of the cycle, all land returns to its original owner.  Imagine a farmer who comes across bad times because of a draught or poor crop.  In order to sustain his family, he might sell off parts of his farm acre by acre.  After 10 years, he might have nothing left, and he might be evicted or have to find another way to make a living.  According to our Torah laws, in the 50th year, this farmer would receive back all his land and become his own landlord again. 
This law seeks to ensure that the circumstances of today do not completely limit your potential in future years.  They level the playing field and account for both good and bad times.  These laws also remind us that we are not the ultimate owners of our land, property, or destiny.  Rather, God is the ultimate creator.  The restoration of land to its original owner and the opportunity to start over serves to awaken our spiritual sense of unity in our community.  Ultimately, we may help someone out by purchasing their land to help them make ends meet, and we may still have to work harder to get where we want, but this week the Torah reminds us that our lot in life is up to us to figure out. 
What is the leveler in your life?  What gets you back on track?  Is it time with your family?   Prayer?  A good night’s sleep?  Find these moments and take advantage of them.  Hard times will come your way, that’s a given, but it’s up to you how you handle them.  You can let an unfortunate situation consume you or you can remember that life is a cycle, and pretty soon it will be time to elect a new attitude.
ללמוד  To Learn: ללמד To Teach: לשמור  To Keep  לעשות  To Do:  Take a rest.  Allow yourself one day out of every 7 to relax.  If we only rest once every seven years like the land, we will be over worked and unable to truly enjoy all that God has created for us.  By taking on this day of rest you will be better able to engage in the world around you.

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