I was recently away from home and, for the first time in a long while, did not have immediate access to a set of wheels. After a few days of being at the whim of other people’s kindness to lend me their keys, I found myself at the car rental counter, eagerly signing on the dotted line for the overpriced vehicle I was about to call my own for the next few days.

For anyone who has experienced it, that feeling of pulling out of the lot, newly liberated and free to go wherever you want, whenever you want, is nothing short of exhilarating. There’s a rush, a sense of, “I can do whatever I please now!” that comes with a vehicle. Indeed, private car ownership is considered one of the things that have radically transformed our modern world.

But there I was, a few days later, returning the vehicle and back to . . . nothing.

It just goes to show: You don’t really own anything.

And you know what? That’s a really, really good thing.

Blessings Over Food

Jews make blessings over food prior to eating. The Talmud provides the reasoning:

When one takes pleasure from this world without a blessing, it is as if he benefited from G‑d’s consecrated property, as it is stated: “The earth and all it contains is the L‑rd’s” . . . This is before a blessing is recited . . . after a blessing is recited, it belongs to humankind.1

Understood simply, the Talmud seems to suggest that a blessing is a sort of request for permission. The earth and all its contents belong to G‑d, so in theory, we regular people would not be allowed to enjoy the food of this world. By making a blessing, however, we secure G‑d’s “permission” and yippee—dig in!

But here’s the question: Even after the blessing is recited, the fact remains that the world belongs to G‑d and retains its sacred status. So how are we allowed to partake of it? True, we may have requested permission from G‑d, but what, exactly, does the blessing accomplish? It’s not as if the blessing revokes G‑d’s ownership, so who are we fooling?

The Kohen and His Property

The answer lies in a law found in this week’s parshah, Emor.

Our discussion about laws that limit who can partake of consecrated items is found (among other places) in the context of the priestly laws. Many sacrifices were offered in the Temple, which produced a fair amount of meat. This meat was considered sacred, “kodshim,”and the Torah tells us that only a Kohen is allowed to eat it, declaring a sharp prohibition for any non-Kohen to partake.

Expanding the circle of who’s allowed to eat kodshim, the Torah continues:

If a kohen acquires a person, an acquisition through his money, he may eat of it, and those born in his house may eat of his food.2

In other words, while in the service of the Kohen, the non-Kohen assumes priestly status in the sense that he’s allowed to eat from something that is otherwise only permitted to a Kohen.

The same is true with a blessing. It’s not that the blessing allows us to take something away from G‑d, rather, by making a blessing, we’re recognizing that we are G‑d’s property, and as such, we’re allowed to partake of His world. In the same way that a Kohen’s servant can benefit from the holy items belonging to his master, reciting a blessing reminds us that we are G‑d’s servants and can thus enjoy His world.

A blessing is much more than just “asking permission” — it’s a declaration that there really isn’t anything that does not belong to Him, that is not part of Him—me, you, and everyone else included.

It’s All His—and Yours

This is a remarkably healing realization. Think about the “stuff” you’ve lost that got you so upset. Think about the luxuries and resources to which you’d become accustomed and that were one day taken away, causing you much distress.

Remember that time your car broke down? How about when you lost your credit card and were stuck in the store without any means of payment? Or that time you jogged over to your local coffee shop like you do every morning only to discover that they had closed the day before.

And that’s just the small stuff. We all experience far greater losses in life that cause true anguish. It’s not fun, and it really does hurt.

But remember this: You, your stuff, and all those resources and services never really belonged to you in the first place. They are all part of a large, grand, and majestic bank account whose signing officer is G‑d Himself. This isn’t to put you down or belittle your sense of ownership; on the contrary—you and everything else belong to something far greater than yourself, something that encompasses the entire universe and beyond.

The moment you can peacefully and honestly surrender to that realization, you will find liberty and freedom. After all, nothing is yours and everything is yours at the same time, so there’s really nothing to be concerned about at all. The same Being that willed your café into existence apparently has something else in store for you, and that car apparently was no longer meant to be. Don’t sweat it. There’s something else around the corner; if you open yourself up to it, it’ll come.

After all, we are G‑d’s belongings, so we’ll partake of His world to our hearts' content.3