35: And if your brother becomes poor, and his means fail with you; then you shall uphold him: as a stranger and a settler shall he live with you. 38: I am Hashem, your G-d, Who has brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the Land of Canaan, to be your G-d. (From this week’s Torah portion, Behar, Leviticus 25)
This week’s Torah portion gives us the key to the solution for the ongoing debate between socialism and capitalism. In our Torah portion, we learn about the sanctity of a parcel of the Land of Israel to its owner and the directive to the ostensibly autonomous farmer to leave the corners of his field un-harvested so that the poor can come and partake of his crop. The Torah also commands us to return entire parcels of land that we have purchased to their original owners in the Jubilee year.
On one hand, the Torah is extremely capitalistic. The property of a Jew in the Land of Israel is not mere real estate; it is designated – actually consecrated – to him and if need be, must be redeemed in the same procedure as is used in the yibum (levirate marriage) of a childless widow. A Jew cannot turn his consecrated land into a commodity for trade. He must relate to his property as being on lease from the Creator – according to Divine conditions.
This approach maintains the delicate balance between liberty and capitalism on the one hand and compassion and what socialism was supposed to have created on the other. It preserves the liberty of personal ownership and a person’s inherent right to his life and his possessions, while requiring him to serve G-d exclusively – and not those who forcibly re-distribute the property of others as if it were their own.
True liberty is acquired by accepting G-d’s authority. Judaism is capitalistic to the extreme on the human plane and socialistic to the extreme on the Divine plane, leaving the allocation of all property to He to whom all property belongs.