Rest is an important commodity in the Bible. It shows up too often to just think it is a moment of not working. Hashem used the holy makom of Har Sinai not only to please us with rest as the absence of work. He used this platform as the proclamation of His power and our need for restoration of our relationship with Him. Rest must also be: time and opportunity to come closer to Him. The commandment of Shmita or Sabbatical Year (agricultural rest after six years in the seventh) and Yovel or Jubilee Year (rest after 49 years in the fiftieth) is another opportunity to get in closer touch with Him.
The rest for the land is acknowledging that there is more to life than work and bread alone. Moreover the focus in the seventh year is much more on G-d who provides than on the field and its products. As always we are to realize that the Creator is more important than His creation. The number seven underlines the rest and restoration in this world which working life begins on Yom Rishon and ends on Yom Shishi on the eve of Shabbat.
The Yovel Year is to be held after 49 years, in the fiftieth year. Like Shavuot we count seven times seven in order to end in 50. Like Joshua ben-Nun who led Israel into the Promised Land, the 50th year leads into something new. Nun is the letter in the Hebrew alphabet with numerical value 50. The number 50 is the number of the world to come. The Yovel Year makes us focus on that world. And both the Sabbatical and the Yovel Year help us to restore our relationship with Hashem. It is almost incredible that the One who was betrayed by us puts so much effort in restoring our relationship. Great model for our own behavior. This must be real love.
So much for parashat Behar. In the next parasha which is to be read in combination with Behar, Bechukotai, we read exactly about this restoration and blessing which will follow our obedience. At the same time punishments are also stated in this parasha. We would feel too free to just wait and see if and when we would do what Hashem asks us, if He would not add curses with blessings.
It is like someone who screams to us through the telephone and we tell him we will hang up if the screaming continues: when we finally hang up it is the responsibility of the screamer. And screaming we do against the G-d who loves us so much. It is of utmost importance to be very cautious and careful with our G-d. Relationships are fragile, not only with Him, but also with each other. It is easier to loose each other than to keep on keeping on. It is more precious to win together than to loose each other.
Lion S. Erwteman, Rosh Kehilla of Beth Yeshua