Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Three Times Strong

The beauty of Jewish living is that it often strives to bring together the spiritual and the practical.

Judaism is a growth-oriented religion. At the same time, it is also a religion of practical laws that foster a peaceful society. Many of the laws of the Torah and the rulings recorded in the Talmud seem specific to an agrarian society (and from those are extrapolated the laws that have equal weight in the modern world). But each of these laws also has a very spiritual side.

One example of this, is the concept of chazakah, a word that is built from the roots of the Hebrew word for strength. Practically speaking, chazakah in a Jewish legal context often relates to the transfer of property. If a person dwells on a property for three years without his residence being contested, then that person may claim ownership of the land (given that the original owner never protested). If, after three full years, the previous owner should decide to reclaim their land, the burden of proving ownership devolves on the previous owner.

This law has both practical and spiritual applications today. For instance, a person who takes a specific seat in a synagogue three days in a row with no one protesting that the seat is already taken, now has claim to that seat as a makom kavua (a permanent place). That physical example mirrors the concept of chazakah with regard to land. A less obvious example might be a person who deliberately lights Shabbat candles an extra ten minutes early for three Shabbats in a row.

In certain instances, an action repeated three times becomes a chazakah, setting a precedent. But in this matter, as in much of Jewish life, intention is important. Often, in traditional circles, a person will specifically state that they are performing this action without the intent of setting a pattern, so as not to create an obligatory precedent.

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