Rabbi Eisen’s Shabbat Shalom Message

Shabbat Shalom!


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Click here for full text of the
Torah and Haftarah portions.


Candlelighting for
Friday, May 19, 2017 • 6:59pm

• Our Portion for the Week

BEHAR – Leviticus 25:1 – 26:2
In this portion, the Holiness Code continues with a group of laws that are to take effect when the Israelites enter the Promised Land. The people will be permitted to work the land for six years, but the seventh year is to be a Sabbatical year of complete rest for the land. In order to provide sufficient food, God promises that the crop of the sixth year will yield enough for three years. Further, after seven cycles of seven years, the 50th year is to be a Jubilee – a year of release for the land and all its inhabitants. There follow a series of laws concerning redemption of land and persons. The basic principle of land redemption is that all the land belongs to God, and human owners possess it only as land holding. It is not the owners' right to dispose of as they wish, and it cannot be permanently alienated. As for persons, if one had to indenture himself to work off debt, he was not to be abused and was to be redeemed as quickly as possible. The portion ends with a prohibition against idolatry and an admonition to keep God's Sabbaths.

BEHUKOTAI – Leviticus 26:3 – 27:34
This portion concludes the Book of Leviticus. The Holiness Code ends with a promise and a curse. If the Israelites follow God's laws and commandments, they will be blessed with peace, prosperity and security. If they do not obey, however, a long list of the most dire consequences will ensue. The final chapter of Leviticus deals with providing funding for the Mishkan. Offerings may be made in silver equivalent to the value of a person, and a scale of equivalents is provided. Offerings may also be made in the form of animals and property. Finally, provision is made for tithes. Thus, the entire description of the sanctuary, its functioning and the type of life it is supposed to engender in the Israelites concludes with the establishment of a pattern of generosity toward our places of worship which continues down to our own time and become a basic element of community life wherever Jews settle.

• Our Question for the Week •

Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a Sabbath of the Lord.
(Leviticus 25:2)

It is significant that the laws of the Torah are given in the wilderness even though many rules are to be observed only upon entering the Promised Land. Wouldn't such laws make the people somewhat hesitant and anxious about what they would be stepping into? How would such laws increase one's anticipation to finally reach the promised destination?

Some see the Sabbatical year as a metaphor for environmentalism, in which we constantly struggle to alleviate the burdens on the land that has been overworked through generations of industrialization. How is an improved environment an ultimate example of the spirit of Shabbat?

Extending the metaphor …  for many people, ceasing from professional work is simply not an option in today's world, whereas it is encouraged in the agrarian ancient Israelite culture. Does our society value rest less than the ancient world did? Less than other industrialized countries do?