Israel Does Not Own the Land

Israel does not own the Land of Israel. G-d does. It says so specifically in the Bible in Leviticus, chapter 25, verse 23.

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Robin Ticker,

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Israel does not own the Land of Israel. G-d does. It says so specifically in the Bible in Leviticus, chapter 25, verse 23. The Jews have commandments that proclaim that the land belongs to G-d.

In the Torah reading of Behar, the Jews are commanded to return the land to it's rightful owner in the Yovel year. (The Yovel year is the same year that slaves are freed; see the American Liberty Bell.) The original owner inherited the piece of property when the Israelites entered the land and the land was divided among the 12 tribes. The commandments sanctify the land and make the land holy. If anyone else claims the land, it will not be holy. It's as simple as that. The Bible specifically states the curses to befall the Jews and the rest of the world when the commandments are not adhered to.

Therefore, Israel must publicly declare its right to the land of Israel.

G-d gives the land to Israel and Israel in return, as caretakers, has responsibilities and obligations. Shmitta is the key.

Picture this scenario:

Before and in the beginning of the Shmitta year, the farmer is afraid. He is afraid of losing his source of livelihood for a year. Nevertheless, with blind faith, he lets his field run fallow along with other farmers. Let's assume he has an orange grove. The field is open to everyone. His neighbor's field is also open and so are many others. Since the farmers aren't working, they have field trips to various farms and collect food. It's lots of fun. Well, since he got apples from his friend's farm and wheat from another friend, his wife makes an apple pie and shares it. His friend's wife who picked all the oranges from his field makes orange juice. They begin partying, since they're all sharing their food. Before they know it, they've gained 30 pounds. Of course, they share their food with friends who aren't farmers and their friends are loaning them money not expecting to get paid back for things they really need (Shmitas Kesafim).

After the Shmitta year it's Hak'hel year. Along comes the Arabs and say the land belongs to Palestinians. The farmer says the land belongs to G-d. If we keep the laws of the Torah, than we Jews have the right to the land, since we have made it holy by keeping the commandments. If Palestinians own the land, it is no longer sanctified since they in no way sanctify it as we, the Jewish people, do.

So the terrorist Palestinians say, "Who cares about all this? We want to kill you."

The farmer says, "I have a right to kill you first." ("Haba lehargecha, hashkem lehargo."; "One who comes to kill you, you kill him first.")

Along comes America and says, "Not so fast. We won't sent you billions of dollars we have allocated to you."

The farmer, strong in faith, says, "Who cares? Last year, I didn't work and didn't earn money and do you know what? Not only didn't I starve, but I gained 30 pounds. My G-d, the G-d of my forefathers, and the G-d of my people will provide for me."

Keeping Shmitta has the natural consequence of strengthening one's faith.

Now if we say, well, what are we going to do? Last time, the Shmitta year wasn't as just described. There were all kinds of ways of "getting around" the Shmitta year. In fact, it wasn't the partying, fun year you described. Prices were outrageous. In fact, all we ate was stuff from outside of Israel and there was nothing to eat. And I had to pay back all my loans.

The Shmitta year is also a kind of Shabbos. A year when it is like one big kibbutz. What's mine is yours, what's yours is mine, because what we have comes from Hashem. It is socialism for one year. It is a year that we should all be working together and really own nothing individually. The farmer is asked not to work the field and let it be hefker, open to everyone (the fruit being kedushat shviit, having a special status of holiness), and everyone else is asked to give out loans to individuals who need it without demanding payment. To me, that describes a kibbutz lifestyle, except that the farmers don't work the land.

This war on terrorism is ultimately bringing the Jews and the free world to the point where they are forced to pool resources and put less emphasis on "what's mine." After 9/11, everyone pitched in with time and money. If that is what the Almighty wants, i.e., that we pool resources and pitch in with time and money, then let's do it before G-d has to send acts of terror to get us to do it.

Hopefully, next Shmitta, we'll try harder and in the meanwhile have an open debate, enlisting G-d-fearing Jews and economists to write hilchos shmitta without relying on Heter Mechira and Pruzbul. That's quite a challenge - revolutionizing economics. Socialism for the Shmitta year and capitalism the other years. Thank G-d, we have several more years until the next Shmitta to work on this. Doesn't it say in the Torah that all the other nations will look at us and say, "Am chachom venavon"?