Powerless to Potential

(Torah Portion Behar) Powerless to Potential

One of the laws in this week’s Torah portion deals with one who became impoverished and had no resort other than to sell his ancestral allotted parcel of land in Israel.

The law states that after two years following the sale, a relative of the seller may redeem the land. The verse then states; “If the seller does not have anyone to redeem it, but gains enough to be able to redeem it himself, he pays up the balance and returns to his ancestral land.”
Rabbi Avraham Schorr asks: If the seller accrues enough wealth to buy the property back, why does the Torah have to preface this by stating, “If there is no one to redeem the land?” If he accrued the wealth, wouldn’t he redeem it in any case?

The Talmud states that the laws applicable to Hebrew slaves are only in effect when the laws of Yovel – the 50th jubilee year are in effect.

The Chidushai Harim explains the idea behind this is that G-d would not allow a Jew to experience slavery without a way for him to achieve freedom which comes through the Jubilee year.
Based on this idea, Rabbi Schorr explains the seemingly extra part of the verse as follows: “If he does not have a redeemer.” If it appears to him that he has no redeemer, and it seems to him that there is no way to get out of his predicament, the Torah is telling us that only then will he gain the ability to redeem it himself.

This concept applies to every situation a person finds himself in, whether in the physical or spiritual realm.

For example, the first step towards recovery from drug, alcohol and other addictions is when a person feels that life has become unmanageable and he feels powerless. Only at that point can the 12 step program of recovery be embraced and implemented.

The same is true in the spiritual realm. Only when one feels that he has sunk to the point that he feels unable to creep out and he has no ‘redeeming qualities,’ is he assured that with a slight will he will find a way to redeem himself, for G-d’s Hand is always outstretched to accept and welcome us back.

The Torah also speaks of a law regarding selling a home that is within a walled city in Israel.

Homes in a walled city can only be redeemed within the first year of the sale. If it was not redeemed within this time frame, the sale becomes permanent, and the property does not revert to the hereditary owners in the jubilee year as is the case with other types of ancestral property in Israel.

My uncle Rabbi Moshe Saks of Jerusalem points out something very interesting about walled cities:

Based on our secure tradition, there are various instances in the Torah, when words are written one way, yet they are pronounced a different way.

When the Torah describes a walled city, it is written in a way that means that it has no walls, yet our tradition tells us to read it in such a way to mean that it indeed has walls. Why?

The nature of a walled city is that one places more trust and confidence on its fortification than trust in the Almighty.

Of course, there are walls around the city as our tradition teaches us, however, the Torah writes it as if there are indeed no walls, since the inhabitants who do not place their full trust in the Almighty for protection remain unprotected as if there are no walls around it.

This idea follows a central theme woven throughout the various laws in our Parsha. Belief in the Almighty guarantees His blessing, protection and benevolence over us when we follow His directives and place our trust in Him.

Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks