Tag Archives: holiday

A Rosh Hashanah Dilemma: To Shemittah or Prozbul

Our_Canceled_Debts_00034664Ok. Odds are, my title either piqued your interest or made you turn to something else without reading any further. If you are still with me, I want to discuss how an ancient Jewish holiday will reveal something about your faith and your Christianity today. It begins with the holiday, Rosh Hashanah, the “Head of the New Year.”

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of a New Year on the Jewish calendar. It is a time for reflection as the Jewish people head into Yom Kippur, the High Holy Day of Atonement. And this year, there is something special about Rosh Hashanah…it is a “Shemittah,” literally “remittance” or “release,” 7th year, lasting from September 25, 2104 to September 13, 2015.

Shemittah, found in Deuteronomy 15, is a year in which Jews practiced forgiveness of debt and a rest for the land. Few Jews, primarily only the very religious farmers in Israel, still practice the “land rest” portion of this holiday. But it is the forgiveness of debt that is much more applicable…and controversial. And believe it or not, the controversy dates back almost 2,000 years.

You see, even before the days of Jesus, Jews were trying to find a “loophole” on the forgiveness of debt. They lived in a “modern” society. They did not want to forgive debts. Even worse, repayment concerns caused the wealthy to avoid lending as the 7th year approached. Poor people could not get access to badly needed funds, and God’s laws were being abused and trampled.

So Rabbi Hillel provided a solution. He decided that only “private” debts needed to be cancelled. His reasoning? Deuteronomy 15 mentions loan forgiveness to a “friend” or “brother.” He therefore instituted a complicated legal system of “Prozbul” where you can temporarily (say for a year or so) turn over your debt collection to a court. Courts, after all, are not my friend, neighbor, or brother. Orthodox Jews still use this system today (see www.chabad.org). So, problem solved! At the end of the year, you can demand your debts back from the court and all is good.

Or is it? What level of tolerance does God have for loopholes? Jesus challenged Hillel’s prevailing ‘idea of the day’ in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He challenged the Jews to understand that their “neighbor” isn’t just the person living next to them. Rather, we are all created in God’s image and we are all inextricably connected. It is the one who does God’s will that is the real neighbor. He also challenged us to forgive our debtors as we are forgiven of our debts by God.

So, here’s my application, Christians: 1) Do you see those outside the church as your friend, brother, and neighbor? If not, Jesus would challenge you to start treating them as the Good Samaritan did. And, 2) Though you probably don’t celebrate tomorrow as your “New Year,” why not put into practice the spiritual principle of forgiveness this year? Are you harboring resentment? Do you hold an old debt? In this year of release, why not begin by reconciling with those who you should be treating like a brother. Forgive. Christ did, and He calls each of us to do the same.

A Few Great Travel Tips

Holiday travel can be a hassle. Here in the Charlotte area, travelers tried desperately yesterday to get to the airport, but traffic was backed up for miles. People left their cars and ran a mile or two with luggage, often only to find delayed or cancelled flights!

One way to avoid hours of trouble is to listen to travel tips. I recently read the following tips and was struck by how similar they are to the lessons God gives for getting to heaven. Give these some thought…

1)      Prepare for trouble. This one might be obvious if travelling in a winter storm, but Christians often seem surprised when life is tough. The road of life will be difficult if you live according to His way, but the reward is worth the trouble (John 15:18).

2)      Get to the airport 2 hours in advance. You don’t have to get to church that early, but it is far greater to make your decision to follow God now rather than later. Why not enjoy the peace that God offers to those who know their destination (Matthew 6:33).

3)      Travel is easier without a lot of baggage. While we all bring “baggage” to church, shedding the weight of past mistakes and travelling “lighter” are freedoms offered by the gospel (Matthew 11:28-30).

4)      Call an agent at the first sign of trouble. Amen! People tend to wait until addictions are entrenched, finances are ruined, or family issues are extensive. We would be so much better off if we would seek help at the first signs of trouble (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).

5)      If you miss your flight call the airline ASAP. If you miss your flight, you wouldn’t just give up on getting to Grandma’s! You would say, “I messed up. Please help me get where I need to go!” If you sin (“miss the mark”), ask God for forgiveness and get back on your path to heaven (1 John 1:9).

Just don’t miss the last flight because you never got a ticket. The price was paid in Jesus’ blood. Accept His sacrifice today, be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, and enjoy the peace God offers His children.