years, it is still not ours. Each of us is merely a long term, but temporary, renter.
The one exception to the rule of the yovel is that those owning homes in a city with a wall around it need not return the house to its original owner. They are not "redeemed." Rather, the "new" owner is allowed to keep the home. If the home is not in a walled city, it is treated in the same manner as the fields of the earth and the property is redeemed.
Rabbi Shmuel Birnbaum, of Vancouver, BC, gave a beautiful interpretation of this passage at a retreat I attended a number of years ago. He spoke of how, in our quest for personal, spiritual redemption, we must try to free ourselves from whatever is keeping us chained to the past and preventing us from being in the present. Old habits, behaviors, and thoughts often hinder us from feeling free or"redeemed. We each build a wall around our heart that prevents redemption from occurring. It is these walls that prevent God, and others, from entering our lives.
However, Rabbi Birnham also reminded us of the fact that a shofar (ram's horn) was to be blown to announce the start of the yovel year. Later, in the biblical book of Joshua, we read that Joshua and his men blew the shofar in order to knock down the walls of Jericho so they could conquer it as part of their conquest of the land of Canaan. We too must find a way to tear down the walls that we have built around our hearts in order to liberate and redeem ourselves from our self-imposed captivity.
But this also has an important message for us as a community, a country, and a world in the year 2012. For during the past year we have heard and red of the disparity between the "haves" and "have nots" in our society. I doubt that there is anyone who has not encountered the "Occupy" movement or those chanting "we are the 99%" this past year. And though I do not usually enter the realm of politics in this blog, I believe that the spiritual truth in the Torah is also reflected in this movement. The truth of which I speak is not that all the wealthy are evil, for to call them evil is simply to judge them and place a label on them, which is counter to the principles of mindfulness (and the values of Judaism, as I understand them). For I am certain that there are people who do good things and people who do bad things within both the 1% and the 99%. For the same reason, I do not believe that the message is that all in the 99% are good, righteous and just people. Rather, the message that I believe is found in the parashah which is also at the core of these movements is that there must be equality in our world. No one person or group of people should control everything. That is not part of the Divine plan. That is the work of the all-too-human ego!
The Torah does teach that there will always be poor on the earth (though we can certainly work towards transforming that in to a falsehood), but that doesn't mean we just sit idly by as more and more people fall beneath the poverty line. We must fight for equity and equality as a reflection of the principle of equanimity that is at the heart of mindfulness and, I believe, of the Torah.