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Parashat Behar-Bechukotai - 5777

Dear friends,

This is another Shabbat when two portions are read - Behar and Behukotay.

Behar is a very short Parasha consisting of only one chapter - Leviticus, chapter 25. The second Parasha , Behukotay, is the last Parasha in Leviticus and contains blessings and curses. Blessings if we follow G-d's teachings and curses if we do not.

The Children of Israel are about to enter the promised land. In Behar, we have laws which provide a social system that gives an equal opportunity for all. Being an agricultural society, owning a piece of land is central to enjoying G-d's blessings. A safety net is provided in these laws for those who do not succeed in farming, and must sell their land. The land is never sold in perpetuity, but for a specific number of harvests. The land returns to its owner at the end of the Sabbatical year or the Jubilee year. We are urged to help one who is down by providing an interest-free loan, by giving a job, or even by welcoming him and his family into our home.

For one who sold his ancestral home or who, in a worst case, sold himself into servitude in order to exist, the Jubilee Year returns the land to the family, and the servant is freed and may return home.

The shofar is sounded on the Yom Kippur of the Jubilee Year throughout the land:

"And you shall hallow the fiftieth year. You shall proclaim liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, each of you shall return to his holding and each of you shall return to his family." (Leviticus 25:10)

The word 'Jubilee' has become synonymous with the number fifty. We use it to mark this special milestone in a couple's years of marriage, the existence of an organization, etc. In this week's Parasha, however, Jubilee is a unique opportunity that restored freedom to every individual.

According to Nahmanides the word 'Jubilee' - Yovel in Hebrew - comes from the root 'Hovala', meaning 'movement', a term used today for Israeli moving company names. When the Torah states "Proclaim liberty throughout the land", it is the liberty for each individual to go to where he or she wishes.

As we look at our world today, seeing the movement of millions of people who have been forced to move from their homes and countries, we realize how lacking our society is of this G-d-given right for a human being to live in freedom - in their ancestral home or to move to a new place. I believe that the lessons of the Jubilee - the opportunity for a new start - is something that we should strive for in helping others and ourselves. It is our obligation to be of help to those who have been forced out of their homes and are on a Yovel - on a move to find a better place.

It is also a message for us to overcome the obstacles that prevent us from fulfilling our dreams and our full potential. "Proclaim liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants" is a G-d-given freedom that we should take to heart, explore and enjoy.

Just a reminder that a special Jubilee will be observed this coming week. 'Yom Yerushalayim' - Jerusalem Day - will be observed this coming Tuesday evening. It is a very special year, as it is Jerusalem's Jubilee since it was liberated fifty years ago in 1967. Israel's neighbors as well as many other countries continue to deny the right of the Jewish people to return to their 3000-year old capital, and the right of Jerusalem to return to her legitimate and historical people.

"And you shall hallow the fiftieth year. You shall proclaim liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, each of you shall return to his holding and each of you shall return to his family." (Leviticus 25:10)

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram