Parasha Inspiration – Behar-Bechukotai

יְדַבֵּ֤ר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־משֶׁ֔ה בְּהַ֥ר סִינַ֖י לֵאמֹֽר: דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם כִּ֤י תָבֹ֨אוּ֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י נֹתֵ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם וְשָֽׁבְתָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַֽיהֹוָֽה: שֵׁ֤שׁ שָׁנִים֙ תִּזְרַ֣ע שָׂדֶ֔ךָ וְשֵׁ֥שׁ שָׁנִ֖ים תִּזְמֹ֣ר כַּרְמֶ֑ךָ וְאָֽסַפְתָּ֖ אֶת־תְּבֽוּאָתָֽהּ: וּבַשָּׁנָ֣ה הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗ת שַׁבַּ֤ת שַׁבָּתוֹן֙ יִֽהְיֶ֣ה לָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַֽיהֹוָ֑ה שָֽׂדְךָ֙ לֹ֣א תִזְרָ֔ע וְכַרְמְךָ֖ לֹ֥א תִזְמֹֽר: אֵ֣ת סְפִ֤יחַ קְצִֽירְךָ֙ לֹ֣א תִקְצ֔וֹר וְאֶת־עִנְּבֵ֥י נְזִירֶ֖ךָ לֹ֣א תִבְצֹ֑ר שְׁנַ֥ת שַׁבָּת֖וֹן יִֽהְיֶ֥ה לָאָֽרֶץ: וְהָֽיְתָ֠ה שַׁבַּ֨ת הָאָ֤רֶץ לָכֶם֙ לְאָכְלָ֔ה לְךָ֖ וּלְעַבְדְּךָ֣ וְלַֽאֲמָתֶ֑ךָ וְלִשְׂכִֽירְךָ֙ וּלְתוֹשָׁ֣בְךָ֔ הַגָּרִ֖ים עִמָּֽךְ:

And the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them: When you come to the land that I am giving you, the land shall rest a Sabbath to the Lord. You may sow your field for six years, and for six years you may prune your vineyard, and gather in its produce, But in the seventh year, the land shall have a complete rest a Sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field, nor shall you prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest, and you shall not pick the grapes you had set aside [for yourself], [for] it shall be a year of rest for the land.

Leviticus 25:1-5

This week’s Torah portion gives us the mitzvot of the Shmitta and the Yovel, the seven-year and the 50-year cycles. These are instructions given to Israel to be followed when we come into the land of the promise. The Shmitta, the release, is every seven years. The land is then to be given its rest.

In last week’s Torah portion, Hashem commands us to recognize the sanctity of time. The cycle of the Moadim, Hashem’s designated times, provides us a framework within which we may both understand Yeshua, and work toward his purposes. This week’s portion extends this concept to yearly cycles, as well as cycles during the year. But there is much more important connection.

When Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem and destroyed Solomon’s Temple, the Jewish people were sent into exile. For the first time, we were unable to carry out Hashem’s instructions and the sacrificial system came to a halt. The Anshei Knesset HaGdola, the Men of the Great Assembly, came to the conclusion that one of the great reasons Hashem allowed the Temple to be destroyed was that Israel was not following the Shmitta. This indicates that the Shmitta is one of the greatest commandments of Israel in the entire Torah.

The Shmitta is not only a continuation of Hashem’s teaching of the sanctity of time, the Shmitta connects the sanctity with the sanctity of space as well. The Shmitta is not only the seven year cycle, it is a seven year cycle within a very specific place, the land of the promise. Through the Shmitta, we see that both time and space are holy. There are times that are kadosh, like Shabbat, and there are places that are kadosh, such as Israel, Jerusalem, the Temple mount.

Hashem’s sanctification of time and space in parashat Emor and parashat Behar leads us to reevaluate our ideas concerning the importance of the realms within time and space and beyond time and space. There is an instinctive tendency to think of the heavens, beyond time and space, the bulk of our existence, to be the most important aspect of the universe. However, if both time and space are sanctified by Hashem, how could time and space be the least important aspect of creation? The argument can be made that time and space is the most important aspects of creation. It is only within time and space that we have free will and choice. It is only within time and space that we can choose to follow Hashem’s Torah. This is why the sanctification of time and space is so important. In fact, we have the ability, only within time and space, to work toward achieving Hashem’s plan, the rectification of the world. As Peter wrote in his 2nd letter, we should lead holy and Godly lives, hastening the day of Hashem. Shabbat shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.