Thursday, May 26, 2016

Parshat Behar, 4th Portion, Leviticus 25:25-28, May 25, 2016

“If your brother becomes destitute and sells some of his inherited property, his redeemer who is related to him shall come forth and redeem his brother’s sale. and redeem his brother’s sale: and the purchaser cannot impede [the redemption]. 
And if a man does not have a redeemer, but he gains enough means to afford its redemption, he shall calculate the years for which the land has been sold, and return the remainder to the man to whom he sold it, and [then] he may return to his inheritance.” (Leviticus 25:25-27)
I read a couple of positive messages here:
  • That we should take care of our own (whatever that might mean). If a brother is in trouble, you should help him.
  • You should not gain from another’s bad luck.

But the other side of the coin:
  • Economically, this may not work for the destitute man. His inherited property will not be worth as much if it has the potential to be repossessed. So, to “add insult to injury,” his good fortune to inherit property has been diminished. 
  • Psychologically, this may encourage the classic “enabling” syndrome, where the brother bails out the spendthrift. Though the intention is admirable, will one be more apt to be responsible if they know they will not be bailed out?

Of course, there are circumstances where one is not responsible for becoming destitute. But the problem with this law is that the brother doesn’t have a choice to decide if it is time to help his brother or time to let him be destitute for awhile. Nor is the redeemer brother able to perform a generous deed, for he redeems because of a commandment rather than an open heart.

P.S. I tried this out on my kind-of brother-in-law (daughter’s father-in-law). I told him I was destitute and had to sell some inherited property. I asked him to buy it back for me. “No way,” he said. I replied, “But the good book says you need to do it.” And my plea went downhill from there, despite that he’s (normally) a very generous man. 

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