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Parashat Behar - 5774

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the portion of Behar. It contains many laws that attempt to create a just society, where everyone is able to earn a livelihood, and reaches the utopian dream, "each person lives under his/her vineyard and fig tree." The laws of Shmittah, the Sabbatical year, and the laws of the Yovel, the Jubilee Year, are supposed to help give that new start to someone who had fallen on bad times. Perhaps someone had to sell his land, or if things got real bad, he even sold his services to a master so that he could survive. The Shmittah Year sets him free and the Jubilee Year gives him back his land.

The Parasha includes many Mitzvot describing how we can be helpful to others. Chapter 25 lists the various situations when we are called upon to help someone in distress. Providing an interest-free loan, giving a person a job, and treating the employee (servant) in a dignified and humane way.

In Israel, as in America today, the gap between the rich and poor has grown to new heights. The Torah recognizes that there will always be rich and poor, and the Mitzvot in this Parasha urge us to find ways to help. The person who is in need is described as one who 'stumbled'. We are urged to help that person by supporting him/her in various ways, until they can again stand on their own.

The portion ends by giving us a reason why we need to help people become self-sufficient:

For it is is to Me that the Israelites are servants: they are My servants, whom I freed from the land of Egypt, I am the L-rd your G-d." (Leviticus 25:55)

Every human being needs to be free and not beholden to other human beings, but only to G-d. Every time you do a Mitzvah by helping someone or an organization that helps people in need, you are bringing freedom to the world.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Mother's Day,

Avram