Weekly Parashah

Parashat Behar

20 Iyar 5782 / May 21st, 2022

By Ray Santi

 

This Week’s Readings:

Torah: Leviticus 25:1-26:2

Haftarah: Jeremiah 32:6-27

Brit Chadashah: Revelation 21:1-4; 22-27

 

This week‘s parashah consists of only one chapter and it introduces us to the Yuval or Year of Jubilee.  First a little back story in which I will attempt to explain the concept of time within a three-minute drash. G-d created time for the benefit of mankind. There is no purpose for time in an eternity with no beginning or end. G-d has then structured this time He created in groups of sevens. He wants us to constantly be aware that our time on earth is limited and that He will bring restoration in His appointed time, time which He has structured us to count in short and long intervals of seven. First, we are commanded to count the seven days for the weekly Shabbat, something which all of us here obviously do. The Shabbat is many things but in this context I will suggest that it is a condensed version of time and a weekly reminder of G-d‘s larger timespan of sevens. Then, besides counting days for the Shabbat, we are commanded to count seven weeks of seven, forty-nine days, until the 50th day which is Shavuot. I would say that is something all of us here are also doing. (I keep a piece of paper where I mark every day in groups of seven). We recall the events that occurred in the wilderness for which days to gather an omer of manna for the weekly Shabbat and then counting the days up to the giving of the Torah on Sinai and then 2,000 years later in Jerusalem when the L-RD sent the Holy Spirit to those who faithfully counted to Shavuot. We also have the seven days of Passover and the seven days of Succoth, and the eight-day Shemini Atzeret. Next G-d had us count seven years for the Shmita and the cancelling of debts. In a world of student loans, and 30-year mortgages, this is concept of counting associated with cancelling debts is hard for our Western minds to grasp. We don‘t have too much historical evidence in Scripture of how well this was ever observed. We see a feeble attempt in Jeremiah 34 which backfired miserably due to wrong motives. And while the Shmita is practiced by some people in Israel today, we can only use our imagination of how great the Shmita year could have been. For instance, if you were a farmer, you basically got a 52 week ‘vacation’ every seven years. If you were a slave, you were released; if you had any debt it was cancelled. This was another way G-d established for us to keep in mind how finite our existence is before Him so we would use our time wisely. It also puts into perspective the transitory nature of any earthly possessions.

 

That leads us to today‘s Torah portion, which focuses on the Yuval or Jubilee year. We are to count seven sevens of years, forty-nine years, and then the 50th is the Yuval. Once again, we need to use our imaginations of what this must have looked like. For most people it would be a once in a lifetime event, others depending on their age might see two Jubilees in their lifetime. While we may not imagine what being freed from slavery might be like I think we can all imagine our debts being cancelled. We can also imagine what it must have looked like for people to return to the land or home of their father or grandfather. (I have an interesting story about visiting my grandfather‘s farm after 50 years. If you‘re interested, ask me about it later). The shofar would sound Teruah on the 10th day of the 7th month and people all over the land could return to ancestral land that they had lost due to debt during the previous fifty years. It would also be another 52 week ‘vacation’ for everyone in the land on top of the 52 week ‘vacation’ everyone just had for the Shmita year. Also, it is an unusual juxtaposition that such a joyful day would occur on Yom Kippur, the most solemn of days. Any attempt for me to expound on this paradox would also far exceed the limit of a 3-minute drash. The main thing for us to do today in this country is to constantly be aware of time within G-d‘s framework because future events will be fulfilled on these days and timeframes He has given us.

 

In the Haftarah portion we see the impending destruction and captivity of the Kingdom of Judah due to their sin. G-d instructs Jeremiah to buy a field and seal the deed in a clay pot for it to be claimed at a future time. A few chapters earlier in Jeremiah 25, G-d tells Jeremiah that the Kingdom of Judah would be in captivity for seventy years. Then the L-RD tells Jerimiah that the people will return after seventy years. We see in the book of Daniel that Daniel carefully counted time, and after seventy years, prayed to the L-RD and the L-RD Himself fulfilled His words to Jeremiah. The captives were allowed to return to Israel. All of this came about exclusively because of G-d‘s faithfulness to His word, and not by any human merit.

 

In the Brit Chadashah, we see a new heaven and a new earth and a New Jerusalem. The heavens and earth that we know as our only reference point for reality will be gone. No longer any sea; no sun and no moon. I used to have a problem with that because I really like the sun, moon and sea and have a hard time imagining life without these things. The earth G-d has created is my only reference point for everything I know. But realize that G-d has something even better planned for us and that He will bring it to fulfillment solely because He is faithful to the words He promised.

 

So, what does this have to do with counting? It is my opinion that everything we read about in this chapter will take place at the end of all the counting G-d has commanded. Days, weeks, years, and millenniums of sevens will finally be complete and a new day, an eighth day, a New Jerusalem will arrive. So let us keep counting together as we look forward to the arrival of His Kingdom.