In the ten years since the sub-prime mortgage crisis, we have all become keenly aware that home ownership, wealth, or success are all tenuous. Our parasha this week, B’har teaches this wisdom in a radical way. The Torah says that all of humanity are just residents living on God’s land. Our hubris might tell us that we own “x amount of acres” or square feet, but the Torah is clear in its understanding of who owns the land.
As far as landlords go, God is a pretty good one to have. In the Torah, God promises that the Israelites will flourish on the land for as long as they follow God’s ways: giving tzedakah, treating others with dignity, and taking care of the earth. We will suffer in equal ways if we disobey God’s standards. It’s not that God doesn’t believe in private property; rather, this radical law is meant to loosen the vice grip we may have around owning “stuff.” In essence, God’s proclamation that we are but renters on the land is meant to remind us that there are many, many more important factors in life than the material possessions we hold so dear. The way God enforces this mitzvah is through Shabbat.
Shabbat is that small way that we detach ourselves from the world of material possessions. We should turn our focus away from our Amazon shopping cart or wishlist, and instead, focus on the truly important things we hold in our lives: our relationships with our family and friends. Nothing in the Torah is more important than the connection between two people.
We are all renters on this earth. The lesson of this parasha is that our material possessions are far less valuable in the grand scheme of life. What matters are the intangible relationships between one another. Whether we are just beginning summer vacation, continuing a year of success and opportunity, or confronting challenges in our lives (or all three and more), let us remember that what truly strengthens us are the bonds we share with those we love.