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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Parashat Behar

Parasha: Behar – Leviticus 25:1 – 26:2
Haftara: Jeremiah 32:6-2724:5-9
Reading date: 17th May 2008 – 12th Ayar 5768

25:1 The law for the ‘Shemittah’ - sabbatical and ‘Yovel’ - jubilee years brings to a close the laws given to Moses by YHVH upon Mount Sinai. This is shown by the words of the heading (Lev.25:1), which point back to Exo.34:32, and bind together into an inward unity the whole round of laws that Moses received from YHVH upon the mountain, and then gradually announced to the people.

25:2 The ‘Shemittah’, the Sabbatical Year, is likened to the Sabbath because both bear testimony to YHVH’s creation of the universe in six days and His rest on the seventh.

25:5 This verse is used figuratively with Lev.25:11 to describe the Nazerite (Num.6:5) ‘Nazir’ , who let his hair grow freely without cutting it. He is like a vine not pruned, since by being left to put forth all its productive power it was consecrated to the YHVH. (Dilitch).

25:8-9 Keeping the year of jubilee. Seven Sabbaths of years - i.e., seven times seven years, the time of seven year-Sabbaths, that is to say, 49 years – we are to count, and then at the end of that time to cause the ‘shofar’ of jubilee to sound through the whole land on the tenth of the seventh month, i.e., the Day of Atonement, to proclaim the entrance of the year of jubilee. The blowing of the shofar was the signal of the descent of YHVH upon Sinai, to raise Israel to be His people, to receive them into His covenant, to unite them to Himself, and bless them through His covenant of grace. Just as the people were to come up to the mountain at the sounding of the ‘Yovel’ – jubilee, or the voice ‘kol hashofar’ of the shofar, to commemorate their union with YHVH, so at the end of the seventh sabbatical year the shofar is to announce to the covenant nation the gracious presence of YHVH, and the coming of the year which brings “liberty throughout the land to all that dwelt therein” , - deliverance from bondage (Lev.25:40), return to their property and family (Lev.25:10, Lev.25:13), and release from the labor of cultivating the land (Lev.25:11, Lev.25:12). This year of grace as proclaimed and began with the Day of Atonement of every seventh sabbatical year, to show that it was only with the full forgiveness of sins that the blessed liberty of the children of YHVH could possibly commence. This grand year of grace was to return after seven times seven years; as is expressly stated in Lev.25:10, every fiftieth year was to be sanctified as a year of jubilee.

25:17 The meaning of this verse is very deep. The word ‘tono’ means not to aggrieve or to do anything to anyone that would make them worse of than they are at present. It could be financially or emotionally.

25:35-38 The highest form of charity is to prevent a person from becoming poor, by offering a loan or employment, investing in his business, or any other form of assistance that will avoid poverty. (Rambam).

25:47-53 The ultimate degeneration is to be sold as a slave to an alien resident of the Land. The Torah enjoins his kinsmen to redeem his kinsmen but without depriving him of his own property rights.

26:1-2 Through the adherence to these commandments (avoidance of idolatry, observance of Shabbat, and reverence for the Tabernacle), we will find strength to observe all the others, thereby preserving our faith in the most adverse circumstances (Ramban).
Note: Ramban was the son of the revered Rambam.

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