LEV957 This special year, with its laws, truly gave people a chance to begin economic life anew. When the Jews came into the land of Israel, the land was apportioned to each family by tribes. During each fifty-year cycle land was bought and sold as in any real estate market in a capitalistic society. However, everyone knew that the end of the fifty-year cycle the land would return to the original owners [this verse]. Of course, the price of land would be affected according to how close it was to the Yovel year [Leviticus 25:15-16]. But a much more important psychological benefit occurred under this system. Each person, no matter how poor and no matter how much in debt, knew that as the Yovel year came, he and his family would have a chance to start over. This is indicated in the Torah itself [Leviticus 25:39-41] where it clearly implies that Judaism does not desire anyone to become too indebted to another man. Therefore, in addition to all land returning to the original owners, all Jewish servants also went free at the Yovel year. In a similar manner, all the people that became very wealthy in real estate transactions by using business acumen also knew that as Yovel came, the wealth from landownership would disappear. And since the land was the main occupation of the people of that society, no one could become too rich for too long of a period. This clearly was God's goal in setting up this system. The Torah specifically says [Leviticus 25:23] that the land shall not be sold in perpetuity because people should realize that the land belongs to God, not to them. They are only sojourners with God, that is, the connection with the land (and with life in general) is only temporary. There are many more details of this economic program, but the essentials outlined here help us to understand how, in essence, the Torah's economic society tries to combine the best of both economic systems. The Torah does encourage competition and initiative to try to become wealthy. Judaism has a positive outlook upon accumulation of wealth (See the chapter about "Money in Wealth"). Thus, the Torah does essentially advocate a capitalistic society. However, the Torah also recognizes the dangers in letting the capitalistic society continue unchecked, leading to a society where a general insensitivity to the worker can develop and where a real possibility exists that many people will wind up in inescapable poverty. Therefore, certain brakes were put on the system to prevent the poor from becoming too poor too quickly (the severing of loans every seven years) and gave every person the ability to break the inevitability of remaining poor without hope (by giving a person a chance to begin again with land at Yovel). This system attempts to have a moral impact as well, by "forcing" everyone to stop for a year to explore interests that are not economic and to realize that everything essentially depends upon God's will. In addition, the rich will realize sooner than later how easily one can lose an accumulated fortune.
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