Friday, June 20, 2014

Fact-Checking the Torah -- mortgages?

Your assignment for this week was Exodus 23:10-11, and Leviticus 25:8-13.
Six years you shall sow your field and gather your grain.
The seventh year you shall release and leave the remains for the poor of your people to eat and what they leave over is for the wild animals to eat, and do the same in your vineyard and olive orchard.
You shall count seven Shabbats of years, seven years seven times, and they shall be for you days of seven Shabbats of the years, forty-nine years.
You shall make the shofar of truah pass in the seventh month on the tenth of the month on Yom kippur you shall cause the shofar to pass through all your land.
You shall sanctify the fiftieth year and announce freedom in the land to all its inhabitants, it is the yovel, it shall be yours and each man shall return to his portion and his family.
It is the yovel, the fiftieth year, it shall be a year for you when you shall not sow or reap the aftergrowths or gather your grapes.
Because it is the yovel it shall be holy for you, you shall eat your produce from the field.
In this year of the yovel every man shall return to his portion.
When somebody lends money with land as a security, they have at most six years to produce enough from the land to pay the loan back.  There is no “awl in the ear” in the case of real estate; the land has to go back to the owner.  That is the meaning of “release”, shemittah, in the first set of verses. 
Now we get the 50th year issue, the yovel.  Not only do bondsmen have to be released and return to their portion, the land also must not be indentured.  If somebody took out a bond on himself in the 3rd year of a yovel cycle, his first chance for release is after year 6 and he must be released in year 50.  If land was bonded out, the bond expired in year 7 of the yovel cycle, the first shemittah in that cycle.
Yovel years have not been designated since the Assyrians took the northern kingdoms into captivity because the majority of Israel’s descendants have not lived in the Holy Land since then.
We already discussed that a bondsman was not the bondholder’s to do with as he pleased; he could not batter or murder the bondsman with impunity, violate the sanctity of his marriage, and so on.
With land something similar applies.  The wording of the bond controls what rights the bondholder has.  If any feature of the property is NOT described in the bond, the bondholder violates the bond if he does anything to affect that feature.  The classic example is trees.  If the bond doesn’t refer to the trees, the bondholder must not flood the real estate for rice and he can’t plow so close to the tree that he would cut the roots.
An example of this case is in Genesis 23:17-18.  It lists the trees that were part of the property Avraham bought, as well as the cave.  This passes complete rights in that land to Avraham.
Mortgages had specific purposes in Jewish law and that’s next week’s lesson.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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