Our parasha suggests an interesting idea: “When your kinsman becomes poor, help him and let him ‘live by your side.'” Twice the Torah repeats those words: Leviticus 25:35-36.
We can understand the idea of helping someone in need. We can appreciate Jewish institutions that lend money without interest. But… let him live by your side? Let him live with you?
After reading the entire parasha, we find other measures necessary to build a society where no one is left behind when it comes to covering basic human needs. Even the idea of returning the land to its primary owners is to avoid the unfairness of having a country where a few own the land to the detriment of the many. (Sorry, no Jewish dukes.)
But… let him live by your side?
I cannot read this passage without the newspaper and the TV remote control in my hands and seeing what is going on in countries where the social gap is huge. In our own “backyard,” Mexico is counting the victims of domestic violence by the thousands. On the other side of the globe the Arab world is in turmoil. There are cities where the hotel staff advises you not to go out wearing a gold ring or necklace because it is not safe.
In these societies people do not care about each other. They do not live “by your side.” They do not see a kinsman. They see an oppressor, someone who takes advantage of their low social condition.
The Torah is giving us the tools to build a society where compassion, loving kindness, social responsibility, and tzedakah will help the needy, feed the hungry, and by doing so will create a “homeland security” environment for everyone.
Verse 10 states: “Proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants.” The first freedom should be the freedom from selfishness. The first homeland security rule is to be sensitive to others and remember that our mission, Tikun Olam, starts at home, in our towns, wherever we happen to live.
Let’s try to create a world where we will live “by each other” with peace of mind and soul.