A Taste of Redemption
Yael Eckstein | May 19, 2022
One of their relatives may redeem them: An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in their clan may redeem them. — Leviticus 25:48-49
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Behar, which means “the mountain,” from Leviticus 25:1–26:2.
I was recently asked what project of The Fellowship is most meaningful to me personally. Of course, everything we do is important, but for me the answer was simple: aliyah (immigration to Israel). When we help Jews who are living in difficult circumstances immigrate to Israel, there is hardly anything that gets me more emotional.
This has been especially true during the ongoing war in Ukraine. In the weeks leading up to the invasion, I traveled to Ukraine to assess the situation of the Jews there in advance of making arrangements that would be necessary to help them, if and when, the situation escalated.
Immediately after the invasion began, The Fellowship went into action airlifting Jews out of harm’s way and home to Israel. This was a true “from bondage to freedom” experience. These Jews went from the most dangerous of circumstances to peace and security in their ancient, biblical homeland. As I watched these Ukrainian Jews come down the steps from the plane in Tel Aviv, I felt as though I was witnessing the Exodus from Egypt all over again.
A Taste of Redemption
In this week’s Torah portion, we learn about the responsibility to redeem each and every member of the Jewish people who may not be free.
Specifically, the Torah tells us that a poor person who sold himself into slavery to survive would sometimes be sold to a master who was not part of the nation of Israel — what the Bible referred to as “a foreigner.” In such a case, it was the responsibility of the family and relatives of that poor person to redeem him by buying him out of servitude. After stating that the relatives are supposed to redeem him, the Bible says, “An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in their clan may redeem them.” Doesn’t that information seem superfluous?
A closer look at the Hebrew gives us a clue into a deeper meaning. The Hebrew word for “a cousin” in this verse is ben dodo. The Hebrew letters of ben dodo are exactly the same as the letters of ben David, “son of David.”
Rabbi Yaakov Baal Haturim, a Bible scholar from the 13th century, explained that the Torah is teaching us that when we redeem anyone from servitude, we are acting as their personal “redeemer.” In effect, we are giving them a taste of redemption, the work of the Messiah, the son of David.