Skip To Main Content
[Dvar Torah] Behar-Bechukotai

This week's Parsha, Behar-Bechukotai, is the last Parsha in the Book of Vayikra, Leviticus. In this double portion, the Torah talks about the laws of the Shmita - Sabbatical year for the land - and the Yovel - Jubilee year. In the Sabbatical year, farmers were instructed to let their land lie fallow, to give it rest and allow it to renew. Similarly, in the Jubilee year, slaves were to be set free, and ancestral lands that were sold off could be redeemed. The Sabbatical and Jubilee years were designed to promote social justice and economic stability within the Israelite community.

During the Shmita year, agricultural lands lie fallow, private land holdings become open to everyone, and staples such as food storage and perennial harvests are freely redistributed and accessible to everyone. Additionally, all financial debts are erased, allowing the person who owes money a new opportunity. 

Every seven Shmitot, which means seven sabbatical cycles, the 50th year arrives, which is called the year of the Yovel. This year symbolizes freedom: the holy land that has been sold reverts to its original owners. Laws governing the sale of lands and the prohibitions of fraud and usury are also given, and all slaves can go back to their homes.

Cycles of time are central to Jewish life. Just as Shabbat punctuates the week, so too the holidays punctuate the year. Just as the Torah calls for Jews to work six days and rest on the seventh, it calls for them to work the land for six years and let it rest on the seventh. After 49 years, seven cycles of seven, the 50th is Yovel, the Jubilee year. However, the Jubilee year has not been marked for centuries. 

The question follows: why does the Torah mention that the Shmita and Yovel years are holy? What makes them holy? Rashi answers this question by stating that the usage of the word "holy," which means "unique" and "not like the others," is actually referring to the "restriction against working" during the Shmita year. By refraining from working the land, the farmers show their faith in G-d's ability to provide for them. The Torah's emphasis on the holiness of the Sabbatical year teaches us the importance of trusting G-d and His providence in every aspect of our lives. In this way, we are reminded that the land belongs to G-d, and that we are merely stewards of His creation. 

We can also learn from this Parsha that, in order to truly achieve social justice and economic stability, we must rely on G-d's guidance and wisdom. By following the commandments of the Torah, we can create a society that is just and equitable both for ourselves and for future generations. As Rabbi Sacks, OBM said: "The Israelites will find that their real challenge will not be slavery but freedom, not poverty but affluence, and not homelessness but home."

May we always strive to follow the teachings of the Torah and create a world that reflects peace and justice.

Shabbat Shalom.

Ori, Grade 11