There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
It’s time to explore Torah Portion 32: Behar, aliyah by aliyah.
Behar Leviticus 25:1-26:2
Aliyah 1 – Leviticus 25:1-13
Leviticus 25:1 Adonai spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai; he said
Suddenly we’re back on Sinai? This feels like one of the odd chronological markers sprinkled throughout the Torah.
Leviticus 25:2 “Tell the people of Isra’el, ‘When you enter the land I am giving you, the land itself is to observe a Shabbat rest for Adonai.
The Sabbath was originally observed by HaShem. To learn that He desires His special Land to experience a special period of rest like the People of Israel do adds a great weight to the concept of Shabbat. It must be immensely important to HaShem.
Leviticus 25:3 Six years you will sow your field; six years you will prune your grapevines and gather their produce.
The six years correspond to the six days of Creation and the six days of the week.
Leviticus 25:4 But in the seventh year is to be a Shabbat of complete rest for the land, a Shabbat for Adonai; you will neither sow your field nor prune your grapevines.
Truly His ways are not our ways. This idea might be a solid proof text for the Divine origin of Torah. What madman would cook up this system to swindle a Nation of peasant farmers and why and how would it work?
Leviticus 25:5 You are not to harvest what grows by itself from the seeds left by your previous harvest, and you are not to gather the grapes of your untended vine; it is to be a year of complete rest for the land.
Complete rest. Complete surrender. Complete faith. That’s what it would take to commit to this practice.
Leviticus 25:6 But what the land produces during the year of Shabbat will be food for all of you — you, your servant, your maid, your employee, anyone living near you
Some things grow back on their own and the people were expected to trust that this would be enough. They were to trust that HaShem would provide for them on His own, without the aid of human hands.
Leviticus 25:7 your livestock and the wild animals on your land; everything the land produces may be used for food.
Does this imply that the animals would take care of themselves as well? The wording is less than clear to me.
Leviticus 25:8 “‘You are to count seven Shabbats of years, seven times seven years, that is, forty-nine years.
7 sets of 7 to achieve a Sabbath of Sabbath years.
Leviticus 25:9 Then, on the tenth day of the seventh month, on Yom-Kippur, you are to sound a blast on the shofar; you are to sound the shofar all through your land
Recall that the Creation account says that the world started in Darkness and confusion and HaShem brought Light and order to it. In addition to that all of GEN 1 uses the phrase “there was evening and there was morning,” the such-and-such day. That is unlike the Western perspective. I would think the dawn of light would be the start of the day and that Spring would begin the Year, but that isn’t what the Bible says
Leviticus 25:10 and you are to consecrate the fiftieth year, proclaiming freedom throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It will be a yovel for you; you will return everyone to the land he owns, and everyone is to return to his family.
According to this, it seems like the 50th year begins in the 7th month of the 49th year. It seems odd, but it parallels days starting at sundown.
Leviticus 25:11 That fiftieth year will be a yovel for you; in that year you are not to sow, harvest what grows by itself or gather the grapes of untended vines
This would mean two sabbatical years in a row!
Leviticus 25:12 because it is a yovel. It will be holy for you; whatever the fields produce will be food for all of you.
Same as with the standard Sabbatical year.
Leviticus 25:13 In this year of yovel, every one of you is to return to the land he owns.
This is new.
Aliyah 2 – Leviticus 25:14-18
Leviticus 25:16 If the number of years remaining is large, you will raise the price; if few years remain, you will lower it; because what he is really selling you is the number of crops to be produced.
I love the logic and fairness of this
Aliyah 3 – Leviticus 25:19-24
Leviticus 25:20 “‘If you ask, “If we aren’t allowed to sow seed or harvest what our land produces, what are we going to eat the seventh year?”
This is a reasonable objection and I love that HaShem raises it and answers it.
Aliyah 4 – Leviticus 25:25-28
Leviticus 25:28 If he hasn’t sufficient means to get it back himself, then what he sold will remain in the hands of the buyer until the year of yovel; in the yovel the buyer will vacate it and the seller return to his property.
This feels like the point of Yovel. Otherwise why command the Year of Jubilee on top of the shemmitah every 7 years?
Aliyah 5 – Leviticus 25:29-38
Leviticus 25:35 “‘If a member of your people has become poor, so that he can’t support himself among you, you are to assist him as you would a foreigner or a temporary resident, so that he can continue living with you.
Torah is full of love and concern for the lowest and most desperate among us. This is not the so-called Wrathful G-d of the Old Testament. There is no such thing.
Aliyah 6 – Leviticus 25:39-46
Leviticus 25:42 For they are my slaves, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; therefore they are not to be sold as slaves.
Just as HaShem owns the Land of Israel and the whole Earth and the entire Universe, He stakes claim of Israel and puts demands on them as well as limitations on how they may be treated by others
Aliyah 7 – Leviticus 25:47-26:2
Leviticus 25:47 ‘If a foreigner living with you has grown rich, and a member of your people has become poor and sells himself to this foreigner living with you or to a member of the foreigner’s family
It’s amazing that the Torah would permit this extent of equality to a foreigner! I would think that a foreigner would be prohibited from acquiring a Jew as a slave within Israel, similar to how no Jew is to charge interest to his fellow Jew, but allowed to lend for interest to a non-Jew. Some laws don’t go both ways, but this one does. Fascinating.
Before I go, I want to answer questions raised at the beginning of this session. These are my opinions, based on my time studying under various teachers and while I try to set aside any commentaries while examining each aliyah, I will allow myself to bring some back in for this section. I will disclose where I am getting these ideas where relevant.
- Why Return to Sinai?
- Why does the Lord Value Sabbath Rest?
- How Hard Would It Be to Keep the Jubilee?
That concludes my journey through Behar for the year 5782.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.