• Gabbai

Behar – A Pair of Socks

Behar begins with a detailed explanation of the Mitzvah of Shemitta. Every seventh year the land in Israel must lie fallow. It may not be tilled or agriculturally developed by its Jewish owner. This Mitzvah is discussed in detail here. The commentaries are struck by this anomaly, since most other Mitzvot were not framed in great detail in the context of Mt. Sinai. There is something about this Mitzvah that is fundamental to our attitudes.

We have a strong sense of ownership, from the time we are babies. One of the first words a toddler learns to express is the word “mine.” Possessiveness is the religion of children. We have a document called The Toddler’s Creed. It spells out what defines a child’s possession. If I see it, it’s mine; if I want it, it’s mine. If I gave it to you and now I want it back, it’s mine. etc. There is a long list of situations in which a child feels the object is “mine.” And virtually every child lives by that code. Just try and take a toy away from a child.

As adults we learn to moderate our possessiveness. We learn to respect the property rights of others, but mainly because we want our own property rights to be acknowledged. If something is taken or stolen from us we get all worked up and upset, not so much because we are bereft of the item – rather we are hurt that our ownership has been disrespected and trampled. It’s mine!

One expression of ownership is exploiting that which is ours as we like. I can use it or not, as I prefer. If it’s my toy, my bicycle, I will use it if I want but I will dictate whether you can use it, even if I’m not interested in using it myself. Calling the shots is part of being “mine.” The new ipad (or tablet, depending on your loyalties) will be used or not, shared or not, based on its owner’s whim.

The Torah comes along and says, “For six years you may sow your field and for six