In this week's Torah portion we read that God told Moses to tell the children of Israel, (Leviticus 25:23) “For the land is mine, you are but sojourners and residents with me.” Does this mean that if one bought a property and the deeds are in one's own name it still does not really belong to the purchaser?
The same word 'sojourn' is used in the context of living in a particular place in Genesis (47:9). Jacob told Pharaoh: “The days of the years of my sojourns have been a hundred and thirty years.” Why did Jacob use the term 'sojourn' to describe the number of years he lived upon this earth?
The answer is that Jacob did not see this world as being his place of permanent residence. There is a story told about the great Chasidic master Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev (A similar story is attributed to the Chofetz Chaim.) A wealthy businessman once visited his home. The sight that greeted him was one of poverty and destitution: instead of chairs or beds were logs and straw.
The businessman asked him why he had no furniture. The Chassidic sage answered him with a question: "Where is your furniture?" Surprised, the businessman replied, "I am only passing through so I don’t need furniture. I am on a business trip to make money, to ensure that at my permanent residence I will be able to have the most beautiful furniture." Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev looked at him and said, "I too am only passing through on business. This world is not my permanent residence so, like you, I do not need furniture’.
A spiritual giant who is able to look beyond the physical realizes that he is only sojourning in this world, but while on the journey he tries to collect currency that will buy him spiritual furniture “at home” – in the world to come. The currency that we value here in this world – money, comforts – are devalued in the world to come. So in this world we must make sure to gather spiritual currency in the form of Torah and Mitzvot.
Jacob understood this, and therefore said “The days of the years of my sojourns have been a hundred and thirty years”.
This is God's reminder to us in the verse: “For the land is mine, you are but sojourners and residents with me.” Although if we buy something it is technically ours, we must nevertheless not forget that the world belongs to God and we are only passing through as God’s guests. We have a mission to accomplish in this world and by fulfilling this mission we will have earned our comfort and place of permanent residence in the world to come.