Parshat Re'eh by Eta Feuerman
In Parshat Re’eh, the laws of Shmita concerning produce in Israel are discussed. Shmita happens every seven years, where the land is not at all used for one year. The inhabitants of Israel have to rely on the previous years’ abundance. During Shmita, the produce that happened to grow is considered “hefker”, free for anyone to take. Additionally, when Shmita comes, all lenders are prohibited to ask for their loans to be paid back. It seems like the laws of Shmita are teaching us the concept that we cannot claim ownership of anything in this world. In Vayikra, where Shmita is also discussed, G-d says “ki li ha’aretz”, because the land is Mine. If we surrender to the principle of everything in this world truly belonging to G-d, and parts of it only being entrusted to us temporarily, we can more easily devote our resources and energy to helping others. We do not have to be possessive of what we own; instead we may focus on using our property to help others. If the land is not mine, what is stopping me from generously giving to another in need, while G-d supports me? Furthermore, as Rabbi Jacobs mentions in her book “There Shall Be No Needy”, there is a linguistical difference between “tzedaka” and its popular translation “charity”. Charity comes from the Latin word “caritas”, meaning caring. However, tzedaka comes from the Hebrew root word “tzedek”, meaning righteous. This may indicate how for us, helping others is an obligation, fundamental to the order of the world that belongs to G-d. Though some laws of Shmita may not apply to us now, every word of the Torah is meant for us to learn from even in current times. From Shmita, we see how everything belongs to G-d, who gave it to us with which to do good. May we all have the strength and the courage to rely on G-d to give us what we need while we fulfill our obligation to help others in need.