Behar-Behukotai

Only once Hashem presented Himself to Israel in history in the way we read about: smoke, shofar sounds, thunder, Moshe actually talking with Him but not being allowed to see His face. This situation is completely unique. We need to realize that there is only one G-d, the G-d of Israel. And He chose Israel to communicate with and give His holy Torah to, in order to live by it and to share it with those people who are drawn by it. The importance of this relatively short moment in time cannot be appreciated enough. And the impact of it needs to be actualized continually. Parashat Behar aims at this actualization as do all Torah portions.

People and land need to be elevated to a level of quality which reminds of G-d’s presence at Sinai and looks forward to eternal life with Him, as our Jewish prophet Daniel says: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life …” (Daniel 12:2). Moments of rest like the weekly Shabbat (see the end of this Parasha, Vayikra/Leviticus 26:2) and Shemitta returning as every seventh year and the every fiftieth year returning Yovel year (year of Jubilee) are moments which are reminders of G-d’s kingship. When we celebrate these times which Hashem appointed at their appointed moments we confirm His authority. Believers who change the day of Shabbat into Sunday and the dates of the feasts into different dates confirm their own authority.

So there needs to be rest for the land, which reminds of Gan Eden (Paradise). And Hashem orders His people to keep Shabbat to realize that He is the one who governs more on His holy day than we during the six other days of the week. The same goes for the Shemitta, also a cycle with seven in it. The behavior of G-d’s people is guided during Shemitta and Yovel years so that the formation of our characters show more and more divine changes. Counting the years leading up to Shemitta and Yovel is like counting the days of the week and of the Omer.

The meaning of this counting is to be focused on those highlights in the meantime. And there is a special meaning in the value of seven. Six periods of human effort should lead to the seventh which shows G-d’s supremacy. This is how the world began: the first day of Adam and Eve was Shabbat, the seventh day in G-d’s supremely perfect world. We see this confirmed in the situation of Jericho where on the seventh day – with seven shofarot (also the instrument of the Yovel year) – the authority of the holy G-d of Israel was superimposed upon the carnal world of idol worshippers (see also this Parasha 26:1).

The spiritual as well as military war against the G-d of Israel and His people will eventually show G-d’s victory. Our Jewish prophet Jeremiah celebrated that moment already ahead of time by obeying his uncle Chanamel and buying a piece of land in Anatot, which is situated just 500 meters south of what is called Pisgat Ze’ev today, a neighborhood in the city of Jerusalem. Owning a piece of land in Israel is the symbol of what Yovel wants to communicate: Messiah’s complete freedom and peace for G-d’s people and their land. It is the Lord of Israel who says: “Is there anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). So let us celebrate Shabbat with that freedom and peace in mind.

Shabbat shalom,
Lion S. Erwteman, Rosh Kehilla of Beth Yeshua
Amsterdam, Holland