Parashat Behar – Bechukotai – Erev Shabbat 7 May 2021
Week of 2-8 May 2021
Leviticus 25:1-27:34 Haftarah: Jeremiah 16:19-17:14
Theme: It Shall be Holy unto you
Parashat Behar focuses on the Shmita and Yovel years and how they are to be observed whereas Parashat Bechukotai cites the blessings for their observance and consequences for failing to do so.
The creation of the world, as described in Genesis, revealed thought, intention, design, and order: the process that preceded its manifestation. Following the creation of man (male & female), in His image and likeness, G-d blessed them and gave to them all of creation to master and rule over. The gift of G-d to man was the Sabbath: a day, the 7th day, the first mention in scripture of something being designated as holy. The Sabbath was a sanctified time of rest; to go within, to give thanks, to reflect, to consider and plan how best to go forward and to celebrate the life G-D had given. Rav Sharga Simmons states: “Six days were required to complete the physical creation, but the process was not complete until the spiritual realm, Shabbat, was added.” A.J.Heschel wrote: “On the Sabbath, we care for the seed of eternity planted in our soul.”
G-d chose the Israelites to be His treasured possession among all the nations of the world; in response, they were to obey G-d and keep His covenant. At Sinai, they accepted the Divine mission to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation and to be the example for all other nations of how G-D wanted mankind to live. For the Israelites to create a holy society, G-d gave them a blueprint; the Ten Commandments.
In addition to the Sabbath, the Israelites were to observe Shmita. Shmita, the 7th year, was to be a “Sabbath for Hashem” when the land was to have a complete rest; when produce was available for people and animals alike; slaves were to be freed; and debts of fellow Jews were to be canceled. Rav Alexandre Safran Z’l noted that: “Sabbath Time joins for all eternity the Creator and His creation.”
Yovel/Jubilee, (it shall be holy unto you) the 50th year, (following 7 cycles of Shmita) was the year all the Israelites were to sanctify and proclaim freedom throughout the land: the land was to rest, slaves were to be freed, people were to be returned to their families and ancestral lands to those to whom they were first allotted.
During Shmita and Yovel the Israelites were to abandon themselves completely to the Providence of G-d to provide their sustenance as He promised. The sanctified years allowed for the opportunity to deepen their relationship with G-d; the sanctified time was an opportunity to explore the world within, the spiritual realm wherein we are reminded that each person is created in the image and likeness of G-d. Attention, thought and order are intrinsic to a good plan as the Israelites work toward creating and sustaining a just, moral and compassionate society in which each person is honored and valued.
We don’t/can’t know the intricacies of another human being, we are, even in advanced years, discovering ourselves; but we can demonstrate our belief in G-d by regarding each other as G-d’s creation. If we do, it may affect a mysterious change in ourselves as well as in “the other”.To master and rule over creation, man (male & female) also needed to consider and plan: the 1st day following their creation would have been the Sabbath; an opportunity to experience the Divine Presence.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. A plan can make a difference in a day, a month, a year; what is yours? 2. What would be first on your agenda for creating a holy society?
Bibliography: Stone Edition, The Chumash; Heschel, A.J., The Sabbath; Safran, Rabbi Eliyahu, Seven: The Power of Numbers; Kahn, Rabbi Ari, A Time to Trust; Sacks, Lord Jonathan, The Politics of Responsibility.
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Gwen-Ellen Dankewich, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna 2008