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The Road to Redemption

Jul 17, 2023

An alleyway in ancient Safed (

אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי הָאִ֗ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֤ר ׀ לֹ֥א הָלַךְ֮ בַּעֲצַ֢ת רְשָׁ֫עִ֥ים וּבְדֶ֣רֶךְ חַ֭טָּאִים לֹ֥א עָמָ֑ד וּבְמוֹשַׁ֥ב לֵ֝צִ֗ים לֹ֣א יָשָֽׁב׃

Happy is the man who has not followed the counsel of the wicked, or taken the path of sinners, or joined the company of the insolent;

ash-ray ha-EESH a-SHER LO ha-LAKH ba-a-TZAT r'-sha-EEM uv-DE-rekh KHA-ta-eem LO a-MAD uv-mo-SHAV lay-TZEEM LO ya-SHAV

Psalms 1:1

In yeshiva (school for Torah study), we spent an inordinate amount of time studying the laws of monetary exchanges and damages. The rabbi told us it was because the intricacies of those laws made a person smarter. That may have been true but it didn’t seem to help me much.

But one aspect of monetary laws stuck in my mind. We were trying to define the difference between renting or leasing property and owning it.

“The owner has the right to destroy what he owns,” the rabbi said. “A renter may use the property and has exclusive rights to the produce of the property. He may use it as he wishes. But he may not destroy it.”

I thought about that for a while. And then I remembered that when God brought the Jews out of Egypt, he did not set us free. When he redeemed us He became our new master. God literally owns the Jewish people.  This means God has the exclusive right to tell us what to do and what not to do. God has the exclusive right to punish us and even, God forbid, to take us out of this world.

King David knew this and said so explicitly.

Psalm 75 begins:

For the leader; al tashcheth. A psalm of Asaf, a song. Psalm 75:1

The phrase al tashchet literally means ‘don’t destroy’. In this simple phrase, the psalm is noting that God is the source of all life and sustenance. But he is also the ultimate judge who has the ability to bring down the harshest judgments.

Like the previous Psalm that was also attributed to Asaf, the commentators explain this Psalm as referring to the 2,000-year exile that began when the Second Temple was destroyed. Had God chosen to judge the Jews unfavorably, we would not have survived the exile intact. It is only through God’s mercy, and the nation’s adherence to the covenant and the commandments, that we were able to return to the Promised Land. The Jew’s perseverance is hinted at in Asaf’s promise to sing God’s praises forever (verse 10).

The psalm ends with a promise that salvation will come. God is just waiting for the right time to destroy His enemies. When that happens, “All the horns of the wicked I will cut; but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up” (verse 11). According to Rabbi David Kimchi, the biblical commentator known as the Radak, “the horns of the righteous shall be uplifted” refers to the ingathering of the exiles and their victory in the war of God and Magog. That is when the prestige of the wicked will be cut down.

As I contemplated these teachings, I realized that the intricate laws of monetary exchanges and damages, which once seemed disconnected from my personal journey, have provided me with a profound perspective on my relationship with God. Understanding that we are not independent owners but rather temporary custodians of our lives and destinies allows us to recognize the importance of following God’s guidance and living in accordance with His commandments. It is through this devotion and fidelity that we can experience true redemption, both as individuals and as a people. May we all strive to be righteous in our actions, knowing that our ultimate salvation lies in God’s hands.

Related Names and Places:

Relate Bible Verses: Chapter 75

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