Forgive, if you have anything against anyone,
so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
"You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am Adonai your God" Leviticus 25:17). This command comes to us from within the context of shemitah שמיטה (remittance year) and jubilee regulations, a time when debts are to be forgiven and lands returned to their previous owner.
The rulings concerning debt release caused much heart searching. The temptation for one to ask for a loan near the year of release knowing that that the debt will soon be forgiven was as great as the one for lenders to either refuse the loan, or regulate price and interest in view of the coming year of release. Due to our evil nature, much instruction is given concerning these things (Leviticus 25). The fact that Hashem has to specify all these parameters is in itself a testament to our wicked hearts and evil inclination.
The whole prohibition regarding shady business deals in view of remittance years is summed up in "You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God". This is repeated several times. The systems of debts and usury are a form of oppression and slavery. The Israelites were a people that Hashem freed by a great price. They shouldn't let themselves be enslaved anymore, especially not by their brothers who were also freed slaves. In remembrance of their former slavery, Israelites were also to be kind to their employees from the nations, to the foreigner in the land. The freedom of the Israelites came at great cost of life. Jubilee laws served as a reminder that freedom is not free. The Israelite’s stay in the land was contingent on their just and merciful interaction with each other, not oppressing each other. Even now many Rabbis comepare this present exilic stage with the internal oppression and conflict within Israel in the first and second century C.E.
The laws of jubilee also served as a preservation of the family farm against the monopoly of big corporations who would otherwise ruthlessly swallow small businesses and take over the land. We need to remember that these laws are only relevant as per the Land of Israel. The jubilee also gave second chance to those who had lost everything, as well as time for people to reconnect with their relatives, make things right with friends, and study the Torah.
The application of the laws of jubilee definitely creates financial loss. This teaches us that financial success is not at the top of God’s priorities. What matters most to him is the welfare of his people, of all his people. We must not complain for loss because of the jubilee, but instead remind ourselves of the great debt we owe the God of the universe. At the Father’s request, our debt of sin was paid in full in Mashiach who now stands as the redeemer of our soul against the unforgiving creditor who would otherwise enslave us. Yeshua said, "forgive … so that your Father … may forgive you your trespasses". This comes with an addendum, "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father … forgive your trespasses" (Mar 11:25-–6). In the Biblical sense, forgiveness is the renouncement of restitution for debt incurred. King David reminds us of the Father’s mercy when he penned, "He does not deal with us according to our sins (debts), nor repay us according to our iniquities" (Psalms 103:10).
P. Gabriel Lumbroso
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