Weekly Torah Commentary – Behar/Bechukotai May 15, 2015

Leviticus 25:1 – 27:34

In the course of this week’s double portion reading, we are given the commandment of the ‘Shemitah’ or Sabbatical year; i.e, that every seventh year the land is to ‘rest’. Several verses outline the description of how the Sabbatical year is to be observed and the central message is the concept of learning to trust God.

What is the essence of ‘trust in God’? It is the consciousness that the Holy One of Israel is actively involved in our lives. The Sages suggest that the very goal of studying and obeying God’s commandments is to develop this trust in our own souls.

Developing heartfelt trust in God is a tremendously liberating experience, imparting to us a sense of serenity and inner peace in the midst of life’s ups and downs, its challenges and its complexities.

In Biblical times, debts were cancelled on the shmita year, and servants were set free. To this day in Israel, farm land is not to be worked during the sabbatical year; no Jewish farmer is to plow or to plant. The land is to rest in order to improve the quality of the soil, just as the Sabbath is given to us weekly that we might rest from the frenzy of daily life and turn our attention more fully to our Father in heaven.

This Sabbatical system, however, could seem to create one great problem: a lack of food! However, God assures us not to worry:

“Perhaps you will say, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year for we cannot sow nor gather our crop?’ I (God) will command my blessing upon the sixth year and it will bring forth (enough) produce for three years.” (Leviticus 25:20-21)

The promise int his verse reminds us that it is God who established the natural order of this world and it is He who sustains it. Therefore, as we place our trust in Him, collectively as a people, we can be confident that His provision during the years leading up to the Shemitah year will be more than enough to sustain us during the year of rest.

Psalm 46:10 urges us: “Be still and know that I am God…” To know Him requires that we first ‘Be still..’ The weekly sabbath is just that: a time to rest not just our bodies but our souls as we turn to Him in confidence as a child turns to his father in utter dependence.

In Tune with Torah this week = We are presently in a Sabbatical year, the ‘Shemitah’ year. It began last September on Rosh Hashana, the Feast of Trumpets and will conclude this coming September 13th, the next Rosh Hashana. As we look at our world it seems that there is precious little ‘rest’ for turmoil and conflict abound. It is precisely in such times that quieting our souls to renew and strengthen our trust in the God who loves us and cares for us is essential.

As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is true: He is a shield to all them that trust in him.
2 Samuel 22:31

Shabbat Shalom

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