This week’s portion talks about the Jubilee year. It’s a beautiful concept: “And you shall proclaim freedom throughout the land.”
In effect, it is a reboot of the country’s entire financial system once every 50 years. In a world of greed and self-interest, the Jubilee would have been an incredible equaliser.
There are many aspects to this, but I will pick just one of the laws to illustrate.
Every 50th year, all property returns to its original owners. When the Jewish People entered the Land of Israel, everyone was given a portion of land as an eternal inheritance. If he fell on hard times, he could sell his land, but not the freehold. All he could do was lease his land out until the next Jubilee, when it would return to him.
There are downsides to this, but there was no such thing as the peasants who own nothing and the lords who own all the land taking advantage of them. For many years, in Europe (and beyond), land ownership defined whether you had power or not. But in Jewish law, this cannot be. No matter how much land you amass, come the Jubilee, the peasant will own just as much as you do.
I don’t believe that this would undermine human industry. There are many ways to amass wealth other than land acquisition. However, it does prevent, from the very outset, the inequality that plagued humanity for so many years.
- Rabbi Rosenblatt founded Aish UK in 1993 and Tikun UK in 2006