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In Parashat Behar, we read about the Shemita (Sabbatical) and Yovel (Jubilee) years that Israelite farmers and landowners were commanded to observe. Every seventh year, crops could not be planted and the land was allowed to rest. Every 50th year, land was returned to its original owner. Some rabbinic sages have taught that the purpose of the Shemita was to demonstrate to people that the earth belongs to God and is only entrusted to human beings. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the Chief Rabbi of Israel before 1948, taught that the purpose of the Jubilee Year was to bring about unity among people by restoring self-respect among the poor and closing the gap between the rich and the poor.
I’ve always been fascinated by daylight savings time, this notion that you can literally change time – something that, to me, intuitively feels fixed – simply by moving the hands on a clock, pressing a few buttons on your microwave, or magically seeing your phone adjust to the season.
I thought about time when looking at this week’s Torah portion, Yitro. First, I find it ironic that the parashah is the shortest in the Book of Exodus since it references time which is infinite. Yitro, who might very well be a “management consultant” today, looks at time as something to be valued in ourselves and others. He appeals to Moses to not take on the burden of hearing every Israelite’s dispute and to not be the judge and jury for all. Yes, the disputes are important, Yitro acknowledges, but rather than spending from morning until evening micromanaging everyone’s problems, let the people handle the more minor issues. Give them the opportunity to problem-solve, to devise creative solutions, and to be leaders. Allow them to share the community’s burden.