Saturday, May 21, 2005



Torah: Lv 25-26:2 JPS

Haftorah: Jer 32:6-27 JPS


1. Lv 25:1-13
2. Lv 25:14-18
3. Lv 25:19-24
4. Lv 25:25-28

5. Lv 25:29-38
6. Lv 25:39-46
7. Lv 25:47-26:2


Behar institutes the Sabbatical and Jubilee Years, respectively the seventh and fiftieth years. Six years the Israelites may tend their fields and vineyards, but the seventh the land lays fallow. The harvest is left to the poor and needy, but not gathered for commerical means. The Jubilee year falls on the seventh interval of Sabbatical Years (7 x 7 + 1) on the eighth year. Eight is the number of redemption, dedication and renewal. Brit milah/circumscision is made on the Eighth Day. The Metzora is purified on the Eighth Day just as the dedication of the temple and consecration of Aaron's sons happened on the Eighth day. During the Eighth, properties are returned to original owners and debts absolved. Indentured servants are freed.


"Six years you may sow your field and six years you may prune your vineyard and gather the yield. But in the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest..." Lv 25:3-4 JPS

"If your kinsman is in straits and as to sell part of his holding, his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his kinsman has sold." Lv 25:25

"If your kinsman, being in straits, comes under your authority, and you hold him as a resident alien, let him live by your side." Lv 25:35

"If your kinsman under you continues in straits and must give himself over to you, do not subject him to the treatment of a slave." Lv 25:39


Under the mountain, the Israelites became a nation, freed from slavery. Mishpatim opens with the protection of the lowest of the working classes, establishing restrictions concerning slaves. Strange, is it not? A time of celebrating newly found freedom, social laws are instituted regarding slavery, providing protections for human rights. Subservience should be spurned, for no man truly owns another. All men are fashioned in the image of God. Should a person become so impoverished that he sell himself, he can serve only for six years-- on the seventh, he must be freed.

If the person desired to remain with his master, his ear was bored to the door. Commentary explains that the ear suffers punishment for ignoring the message at Sinai, reflecting the blood smeaed on the doorposts on the night of the Passover. Behar intoduces the Jubilee Year, bringing freedom and financial release for those sliding into the pit of poverty and despair. Intervention is needed to protect a person from destitution or demoralization before he falls into dire circumstances.

The relationship of man with his fellow man reflects our own relationship with God. Are we slaves to those around us? Do we confront life as a partnership of human and divine elements? Do we see God as the slave-master? Is God the hidden partner of the firm? If God is our hidden partner with a balanced contract, we must also view our relationships with those around us in the same terms. We can be the hidden partner for someone struggling to survive.

Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin writes:

"Do not give your silver for interest. . . . this is the continuation of the previous verse, which tells us that "your brother shall live with you," a reference to the need to give tzedakah. The word for interest used here is neshech, which is related to the word neshichah, which means "biting." When you give tzedakah to a poor person, do not use the opportunity to "bite" him by reprimanding him and telling him to mend his ways. Instead, give the tzedakah cheerfully."

In addition, Ex 22:24 and Dt 15:3 set a fence around the poor, defending them from the wolves, seeking self interest and exploitation through loans or unbearable debts. Debt consolidation is big business. Credit cards extends the debts and losses of those whose eyes are generally bigger than their pockets. Unscrupulous social mores justify minimum wages for heavy manual labor or extended hours with few benefits by arguing cutting expenses or providing a job for the otherwise unemployed. However, when managers and administrators of the company are lounging in leather-padded seats and plying themselves with dividends and company benefits, it is unacceptable to tell the janitor or butcher their work is not worthy of company investment into welfare. Boardroom champagne brunches with personal take-homes of company stock is objectionable so long as anyone struggles with daily survival providing for himself or his family. Each person, working within in a company invests his time and skills, should be recognized for his inherent value. The megastore stockboy presents a more intimate image of the company than the men hidden behind the conference table up in Valhalla. His response more directly influences the client than the slick advertising circulars stuffed into mailboxes. Without his skills, his ability to function in a chaotic environment or his sensitivity to the customer, the company would suffer greater losses. Moreover, the person stocking the shelves is born with similar gifts and abilities as those above, but has not been provided the environment or opportunity to "get ahead."

Consider the visonary who innovated TicTac. Turn one over in your hand. How many billions must be sold for the coffers of internatiional revenue? Consider the paperclip? However humble either product may be, they are frequently sought. Each contributes to the welfare and profit of the company.

Human life should not be discarded like a styrofoam cup. Life should be drunk fully, indulged, savored until a person's basic needs are sated and the joy of living is like the aroma of a fine tea or spice.

The Jubilee Year reminds us of our interdependency. Each of us is susceptible to that beyond our control. Sudden disaster overtakes anyone: the tsunami in South East Asia, a catastrophic buiness venture or terrible car accident. No one is impervious to disaster. We must intervene for our kinsman, our brother, our neighbor when the walls of his house cracks before the carpets are rolled up and sold in the bazaar. Poverty is the hardest enslavement to bear when a person has nowhere to turn for external resources: medical care, education, training, food, clothes...

"You shall proclaim liberty (release) throughout the land for all its inhabitants. " Lv 25:10

Rashi says the release of the Jubilee Year is especially for those enslaved. Although slavery is not enacted today by nailing an ear to the door, ever-present debts and hardship bends the back under the yoke of drudgery. Tzedakah is not merely giving, but granting dignity to each man to walk erectly. Give so that the person can have respect for himself, regardless whether it is encouragement or financial support. As much as you dislike condescension, so does the other.


"When you acquire a Hebrew slave, he shall serve you six years and in the seventh year, he shall go free... II-6 Mishpatim Ex 21:2 JPS (see passage 1-11)

II-6 Mishpatim The Value of Life

When you see the ass of your enemy lying under its burden and would refrain from raising it, you must nevertheless raise it with him." II-6 Mishpatim Ex 23:5 JPS

"Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh you shall let it rest and lie fallow. let the needy among your people eat of it, and what they leave let the wild beasts eat." II-6 Mishpatim Ex 23:10 JPS


Kolel Beha Behukotai 5761

Kolel, Behar Behuchotai 5762
story of the rabbi and cleaning maid

Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, JTSA: Behar 5755
"the world rests on three things: on Torah, service to God, and deeds of love"
regarding the obligation to assist in time financial need and privation

Rabbi Jonathan Spira-Savett, Letting our People Go: Bringing us all out of Egypt

Yanki Tauber, The Myth of the Self-Made Man

Yanki Tauber, Mishpatim: The Criminal, the Litigant and the Partner

Rabbi Eliezer Chrysler, The Ear that Heard 5764

Rabbi Shimon Felix, Bo: Equal before God

Rabbi Avraham Fischer, Bo: Defining the Service of God
My Jewish Learning

Yanki Tauber, Behar-Bechukotai: Whose Life is it Anyway?
explanation of the four Guardians: Unpaid and Paid Guardian, Borrower and Renter

Yanki Tauber, Doing Business with God

Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld, Pirkei Avos 3:20
doing business with God

Rabbi Joshua Heller, JTSA 5763
dealing with economic justice

Rabbi Shimon Felix, Behar Responding Quickly to Need
FEMA vs Behar

Judith Ovadia, Behar: Sowing Seeds of Redemption


Maimonides, The Eight Levels of Charity

Yanki Tauber, Charity: An Anthology

Charity from The Path of the Righteous Gentile
translated by Chaim Clorfene and Yakov Rogalsky

On Sabbatical Years and Year of Jubilee:

Yrachmiel Tilles, The Seventh Year

regarding the agricultural settlement, Komemiyut

Yanki Tauber, The Fiftieth Year

Kolel Behar 5763

Kolel, Behar 5760
examining different translations and interpretations of Lv 25: 35


Nissan Mindel, The First Rothschild

Yrachmiel Tilles, The Loan

Yrachmiel Tilles, Fifty Year Old Honey
Chabad. org A case of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev on the compensation of widows and orphans and lost things

Yanki Tauber, The Prodigy Under the Bed

Related Suite Parasha

II-6 Mishpatim The Value of Life

II-6 Mishpatim The Value of Life



6 May III-7 Kedoshim Love Your Neighbor

6 May III-7 Kedoshim Love Your Neighbor

5 May III-7 Kedoshim Be Ye Holy

5 May III-7 Kedoshim Be Ye Holy


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