Dreams do come true (kind of)
Leviticus 25:4 – “But in the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath of the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.”
Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15 spell out the logistics of the utopian dream of the shemitah (Sabbatical) and the yovel (Jubilee) years.
The ideal of letting farmland lay fallow and for indebted residents to be released from their financial obligations is an ideal that is inspirational and is even relevant in this day and age, if not more so.
Deforestation, over-fishing, mono-cropping agricultural operations, these are but three examples of the relentless pursuit of producing more and more right now at the expense of future generations having anything left for themselves.
No time is given for the forests, oceans, or farmland to recuperate or regenerate.
As of June 2018, according to Forbes Magazine, the national student debt is $1.5 Trillion and impacts 44 million current and former American students.
With interest rates for advanced degrees (6-7%) that surpass averages for car and home loan interest rates (around 3-4%) – the question remains why are we squeezing our greatest resources (young minds and the natural world) to the utmost degree?
The Torah asked that question as well, but actually cared to answer it.
The Torah dreams of a brighter future as a result of a sacrifice now, rather than having a glittery present on the backs of future generation sacrifices.
Of course, like any dream for a better future, emendations will surely have to be made. In Mishnah Gittin 4:3 it says “Hillel instituted the ‘pruzbul’ [a court-issued exemption from the shemitah (Sabbatical) year cancellation of a personal loan] due to Tikkun HaOlam.”
Hillel noticed that people stopped giving loans before the Shemitah year and so he created an amendment to the laws of the Torah. Loans would no longer be erased so that people would feel comfortable lending again. The dream of letting the land rest has had amendments added to it as well.
The Torah’s utopian dream was confronted with tangible reality. Even though exceptions were made to ensure that loans and land would not be released, the effort to think of a better world was not for nothing. Attempting to make the world a better place is just as daring as actually being able to perfect it – since there is no such thing as perfect anyway.
May we in our days have the Torah-like boldness to dream of ideas like the Jubilee and Sabbatical years to our debt and ecological problems. For if we cannot even dream of a more just and sustainable world, then perhaps that is an even greater crisis than the debt problem itself.
The reflection on this chapter is part of the broader 929 project where you read a chapter-a-day (weekends excluded – so only 5 chapters per week) of the Tanakh/Hebrew Bible.
We are working our way towards February 2, 2022.
Where do you hope to be in your spiritual journey by then?