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Rabbi Bulka's Weekly Question

Should companies or individuals have the right to own land or any natural resource forever? As part of the Earth, doesn't it belong to everybody?

From a faith perspective, ultimately we own nothing. Or, put another way, we all have equal access to God's resources. But they are God's resources, not ours. More on that later.

But first, a number of observations on your question.

In reality here on Earth, there is no such thing as forever. Forever is a delusion. Even if one has a contract saying that a parcel of land or a natural resource belongs to its "owner" forever, this could change so dramatically through so many avenues, such as legislation, for example, such that forever is certainly not absolute. Added to the equation is the stark reality that no one lives forever.

You seem to be bothered that companies or individuals own land. Is this any different than Canada, for example, owning the vast of expanse of land that geographically defines us. Why is that not a problem?

Anything that we own in this world is not perceived as ownership in the pure, even forever sense. Ownership means that no one else is allowed to take away what is owned by others. Such pilfering is what we refer to as theft.

However, this does not mean that we are the owner. The real owner is God. God owns the world and everything that is in it. The custodians of whatever there is in this world have ownership to the extent that no one else has the right to that custodianship.

Therefore, in the Judaic concept of things, whenever we are about to enjoy anything in this world, we are obliged to recite a blessing on that enjoyment, as if to ask God for permission to enjoy.

We presume that once we genuinely acknowledge that God owns the water, the fruit, the meat, or whatever, then God allows the person to enjoy. Failure to acknowledge God as owner means that we are literally stealing from God what belongs to God. Without such blessing, God grants no rights to us to make use of God's resources.

The bottom line, then, would be -- count your blessings, and make a blessing!

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen on  April 19, 2008

Wed, August 12 2020 22 Av 5780