PARSHA – the Shmitah and the Yovël
From Reform Judaism https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/bhar
Bhar (בְּהַר — Hebrew for “on Mount [Sinai]”) – Leviticus 25:1-26:2
The Eternal One spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: “Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a sabbath of the Eternal.” – Leviticus 25:1-2
- God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites that in every seventh year, the land shall observe a Sabbath of complete rest: Fields should not be sown and vines should not be pruned. (25:1-7)
- After forty-nine years, a jubilee year is to be celebrated when all the land that had been sold during that time should be returned to its original owners and slaves are to be freed. (25:8-55)
- God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites not to make idols, to keep the sabbath, and to venerate the sanctuary of the Eternal. (26:1-2)
Shmita year https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shmita and
From Reform Judaism https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/bhar
By: Rabbi Emily Langowitz
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH and REFLECTION
You can read this week’s Torah Portion at https://www.sefaria.org/Leviticus.25.1-26.2
From “The Torah / A Women’s Commentary” edited by Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Ph.D.
בהר B’har – Leviticus 25:1-26:2
Proclaiming and Protecting Liberty by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Jocelyn Hudson, p.747-748
Parashat B’har (“at the mountain [of]”) contains laws that aim to protect economically disadvantaged members of the community from permanently losing their freedom and means of livelihood. In Israel, as in other parts of the ancient Near East, those households that fell into economically precarious situations risked losing their land; moreover, their members might become indentured servants or slaves. Israel, like its neighbors, developed legislation to prevent the rich from exploiting the poor. This parashah highlights economic and social concerns through a theological lens. In the process, it expresses what it means for the Israelites to be both a holy people and God’s freed servants. Ethics and social justice do not constitute a separate sphere from ritual in the book of Leviticus but are integral to it. See, for example, the laws at the end of parashat Vayikra (5:20–26). Parashat B’har illustrates how the demand for holiness needs to be implemented in socio-economic practices, making it possible for economically disadvantaged Israelites to “come back home” to family and land.
Leviticus 25, like Exodus 21 and Deuteronomy 15, seeks to provide a safety net to preserve and protect land-holdings and economic stability. In other parts of the ancient Near East, kings issued royal edicts in an attempt to restore economic balance by canceling certain debts, especially when the rulers ascended to the throne. The jubilee legislation envisions a permanently regulated system for adjusting economic imbalance every 50 years, independently of the goodwill of rulers. The legislation also serves to protect the land itself from exploitation. The rationale for land protection is theological: the land belongs to God; moreover, the destiny of the land and of the people are intertwined.
The laws include the following: (1) land must lie fallow every seventh year and in the fiftieth (jubilee) year; (2) land holdings must return to their original owners at the jubilee year or be redeemed earlier; (3) indentured servants or slaves must be released at the jubilee year or be redeemed earlier. Leviticus 25 is the only place in the Torah that describes the jubilee laws. Its laws, however, stand in tension with those in Exodus and Deuteronomy that institute release in the seventh year.
The only women explicitly mentioned in this parashah are slaves or servants (the Hebrew amah could mean either; see at v. 44). Leviticus 25:6–7 states that female slaves or servants, like male ones, are to benefit from the land’s Sabbath; vv. 44–46 state that foreign slaves, including women, are to remain slaves in perpetuity (unlike Israelite slaves.)
The language of release and redemption in the parashah takes the masculine form but functions inclusively to refer to both women and men. Other biblical texts illuminate how such laws would apply to women. Narratives such as Number 27 and 36 describe women inheriting land; II Kings 4, 6, and Nehemiah 5 depict situations in which women are subject to loss of freedom and land due to destitution; Jeremiah 34 refers to the release of female slaves; and Ruth 4 describes the redemption of land sold by Naomi. Clearly, conditions that drive persons into servitude–and the resolutions of those conditions that Leviticus requires–apply to women as well as to men.
Another View – by S. Tamar Kamionkowski, p. 760
The biblical system of a jubilee year has been described as utopian in its vision, promoting a system whereby lands sold under financial distress would be returned to the original owners every fifty years. Under this system, there are checks and balances ensuring a redistribution of wealth at set intervals. This is indeed a utopian vision, grounded both in the religious belief that only God owns the land and people are but tenants on it, and in the socio-economic vision of a remission of debts at set periods.
One would like to think that if this legislation had been in force during some period in history, it would have had a beneficial impact on women and other vulnerable members of society. However, the text does not seem to address many questions regarding the status of women under this system. For example, Leviticus 25:41 uses only grammatically masculine language and male terms to refer to an Israelite who becomes the debt-slave of a fellow Israelite. The text forbids that individual from being treated as a (non-Israelite) slave. The text literally reads that at the year of the jubilee, “he and his children with him shall be free” (25:41). Where is the wife? Commentators often argue that she must be included here, but it is striking that she is missing. According to Exodus 21:2–6, a male Hebrew slave is released after six years of service, but a female slave apparently remains with her master forever–presumably, according to some interpreters, because she has become the sexual property of the owner (21:7–11). The law in Exodus 21, in conjunction with the absence of women in the jubilee laws, prompts disturbing questions.
Similarly, Leviticus 25:47–49 spells out the order of kinsfolk who are required to redeem relatives sold to non-Israelites. The order begins with brothers, uncles, and then male cousins. Again the text is silent on women, suggesting that only men were active participants in this utopian vision of release from servitude and reclamation of ancestral lands.
However, a close reading of the text, along with a study of other sources, demonstrates that despite the seeming omission of women in this account, women were in fact recognized as active participants in all these cases. Jeremiah 34 mentions the release of women slaves; and Numbers 27 and 36 show that women could own land and thus have resources to redeem relatives.
COUNTING OF THE ‘ÓMER
We are in the 49-day period of Counting the ‘Ómer, which this year began Saturday evening, April 16 and continues until Shavuot, which starts the evening of Saturday, June 4. The ‘Ómer is counted each evening.
Today, Friday, is Lad Ba’Omer, the 34th Day of Counting the ‘Ómer and is observed among Sephardim as a day of celebration as distinguished from Lag Ba’Omer, the 33rd Day of Counting the ‘Ómer, which is observed as a day of celebration among Ashkenazim.
Day 35 begins this evening at sundown. Before the ‘Alëinu, after stating that one is ready to count the ‘Ómer, the following blessing is said:
Baruch atah Adonai Elohëinu Mélech ha’olam, asher kid’shánu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivánu ‘al S’firat Ha‘Ómer.
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to count the ‘Ómer.
After the blessing, one recites the appropriate day of the count. If after the first six days, one also includes the number of weeks that one has counted. For example:
“Hayom chamishah usheloshim yom, shehëm chamishah shavu’ot la‘Ómer/ba‘Ómer.”
“Today is 35 days, which is five weeks of/in the ‘Ómer.”
PIRKË AVOT – Ethics of the Fathers
From Pesach to Shavuot on each Shabbat some study a chapter a week from Pirkë Avot. Following is a selection from the fifth chapter.
Ben He He said: According to the labor is the reward.
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur”:
FOR OUR COUNTRY p.516
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of abuse, brutality, conflicts, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds especially directed at individuals and specific communities including us, and war; for all those at home alone or lonely; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, conflict, disease, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds, and war.
This coming week, 20 Iyar through 26 Iyar, we lovingly remember:
Those victims of the Sho’ah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year.
“ZICHRONAM LIV’RACHAH” – MAY THEIR MEMORIES BE FOR BLESSING.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, May 20, 2022.
Zoom regularly updates its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening with wine/grape juice for Kiddush and Challah for Motzi.
Topic: Torah Study – Behar (triennial part) Lev. 25:29-26:2
Time: May 20, 2022 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: May 20, 2022 07:30 PM Arizona
To join Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/72510500854?pwd=Z3VQZWF4U1BBZytNYmh3aHFTWkFDZz09
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!
PS – upcoming important dates:
Yom Yerushalayim – Sa-Su May 28-29, 2022
Shavuot – Sa-M June 4-6, 2022