One of the many laws of our Torah portion seems to be very clear: “And if the servant shall plainly say, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free, then his master shall bring him unto the judges. He shall also bring him to the door or unto the doorpost, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever.” (Ex. 21:5-6). If a slaves rejects the option of becoming a free man after six years of paying the debt to his master he must remain a slave forever. Very simple! Surprisingly Rashi, following the steps of the traditional rabbinic commentaries, explains that the term forever does not mean what we think it means but rather “Until the jubilee year”, a period of fifty years is called “forever” (L’olam).

I honestly, like many medieval commentators, doubt that this is the true meaning of the term L’olam but despite this fact I still find a very powerful idea behind Rashi’s reading of the term. Nothing is indeed eternal; nothing is forever. Even though it may appear to us as something that will never end, Rashi suggests that sooner or later the jubilee will arrive and you will have a new beginning. Every pain, every broken heart, every moment of anxiety or uncertainty, will not remain like that forever. Like Rashi suggests the Jubilee may be one year away or 49 years away, but there is always a new beginning.

The next time you think that something will be  forever just remember that according to our Jewish tradition  forever is not really forever.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Uri