Parashat Behar – Erev Shabbat 13 May, 2022
Week of 08 – 14 May, 2022
Torah portion: Lev. 25:1-26 :2 Haftarah: Jer.32: 6-27
Theme: God in Creation, Sabbath is Holiness.
God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai and told him to tell the Israelites the following. “When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a Sabbath of the Lord.” How significant is Mount Sinai in the First Testament? Mount Sinai is renowned as the principal site of divine revelation in Jewish history. God spoke to both Moses and Elijah at this site, the place where God met people. Amazing stories took place at Mount Sinai. “Just as Sinai was the smallest of the mountains but the words spoken there changed the world” (Lieber pg. 735), with the underlying value of social justice and equality of the human family.
Possibly the most important part of Parashat Behar is the discussion of the laws of Shemittah -the command that once every seven years, we are instructed to let the land rest, “but in the seventh year the land shall have a rest, or Sabbath, a Sabbath for the LORD (Lev. 25:4). “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). The Sabbath day comes from a Hebrew word meaning rest. The Sabbath day commemorated God’s day of rest, after He finished the Creation. It was a sign of the covenant between God and His people.
The word Sabbath is repeated in Lev. 25:4. According to the Rabbis, if a word is repeated, that word has a significant meaning. The seventh day is a Sabbath, the seventh year is a Sabbath, the fiftieth year, the Jubilee year is a Sabbath. In the light of Deuteronomy 19:15 and questions of trustworthy testimony, it is suggested, that textual repetition, serves to emphasize a claim as to the nature of these reliable witnesses to the God of Israel. In the New Testament (Second Testament), we hear Jesus asking Peter repeatedly three times, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15). Repetition in the Bible usually emphasizes the importance of a person, theme, or event. We can see the importance of the Sabbath as an event, the theme of the Sabbath, and God as the Sabbath. Keep the Sabbath holy, as I your God am holy.
The second focus of Parashat Behar is the Year of Jubilee: Yovel. Every fifty years a Jubilee year is to be celebrated: its value is even more sacred, “Keep holy the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom for all the inhabitants of the land” (Lev. 25:10). The word jubilee does not come from jubilation, but from the Hebrew yovel or ram’s horn which was used to proclaim this holy year. “The year of jubilee is, therefore, very holy because it intends to establish perfect reconciliation, not only among Israelite people, but also with God” (Grogan pg. 187).
I appreciate very much the idea and value of the Sabbath Day, the Sabbath Year and the Jubilee Year, the Holiness and God. To complete the equation of life, God must be there. “During the Shemittah and Yovel years, the world mirrors the state of creation, in which land is ownerless, and God is its only master”. (Goldstein pg. 239)
For Reflection and Discussion: . Mount Sinai, Mount Horeb, Mount Tabor, Mount Zion, the Holy Mountains, have a Havrutah (sharing). . The Seventh Day, a Sabbath for the Lord, Seventh month, a Sabbath, the fiftieth month, Jubilee Year: share in Havrutah groups
Bibliography: David L. Lieber: Etz Hayim the Jewish Publication Society (1999). Chabad.org: The Jerusalem Bible, Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd (1974). Patricia Grogan, Christian Community Bible. (FCJ: 2005). Elyse Goldstein: The Women’s Torah Commentary (Jewish Lights Publishing).
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
‘Aliki ‘A Langi, Kolovai, Tonga, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2005, 2018