The inscription exposes the prophetic calling which lies at the center of both nations. Anything but normal, it prescribes the nation a redemptive role. Some consider the inscription the source of a dangerous and blinding national ego-trip, others as a wellspring of an exceptional and inspiring ethical vision. The crack is symbolic: Both countries struggle over the gap between their highest aspirations for themselves and the reality outside. This tension between aspirational and possible, between de jure and de facto, is a drama which unfolds in our weekly portion.
“Six years you shall sow your field, and six years prune your vineyard, and gather in the produce thereof. But on the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath unto God; you shall neither sow your field, nor prune your vineyard.”
It seems that Shmitta and Yovel, those grand ideas set into motion by the Prophets, was handed off to the Priests, who promptly forgot one and gutted the other… We could play out Ahad haAm’s analysis on a wide variety of social change movements today. Indeed the Priest is easily identifiable as our neighborhood politician, earnestly serving a grand idea, but constantly sacrificing the idea on the altar of reality. The Priest is a master of “the art of the possible”.