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Rabbi's Message, Shabbat Lech Lecha

10/18/2021 03:22:52 PM

Oct18

This week, I started teaching two Talmud classes on Property Law. One might wonder, why is property law considered a sacred Torah study? In last week’s parashah, Parshat Noach, the Torah tells two stories: the Mabbul - the world-destroying flood and the Tower of Babel. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 108a, see also Rashi to Gen 11:9) asks why did God destroy the world in one instance, and scatter the population in the other? In the second story which didn’t bring about mass extinction, the people sought to build a heaven-scraping tower to wage war against God. In the story of Noah’s Ark, God destroys the world because it is rife with robbery - i.e., chamas. Why the different outcomes? The Talmud explains that an idolatrous world can still mature to ethical monotheism, but a world in which people don’t respect the boundaries of persons and property cannot endure. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 56a) says that when Noah and his family began to rebuild the world they were charged by God with creating a just court system and a legislative code - dinim. Property Law is part of this covenantal vision of rebuilding an ethically sustainable world. This week in parshat Lekh Lekha, Avraham is chosen to herald the next stage of a redemptive covenant. It is not surprising that contested property rights (regarding persons, lands, and goods) texture Avraham’s narrative as well. We all aspire to a social good and functional, if not exemplary, society. Our contemporary story begins with our ancient biblical narratives and sweeping ideals, and then finds refinement and application in our Sages’ legal constructions. May the lessons of old help us create the blessings of tomorrow.

Shabbat Shalom, Rav Benjie

Sat, December 10 2022 16 Kislev 5783