Weekly Torah Commentary – Behar May 20, 2016

Leviticus 25:1-26:2

In the opening of this week’s reading, God commands Moses to instruct the people of Israel about the Shemitah, the rest for the land every seven years.


As soon as the Jews settled in the Holy Land, they began to observe the seven year cycle that leads up to a Sabbatical year for the Land itself, known as the Shemitah which literally means ‘to release.’

The The Shemitah year waives all outstanding debts.  Does that sound great!  But there is more to it than that.  The observance of Shemitah has several dimensions.

1) It brings release to those in actual debt.
2) It gives the land a year to rest and renew itself.  Lev. 25: 3-6
During the Shemitah year, the farmers in the Land of Israel must refrain from cultivating their fields.  Anything that grows of itself is considered communal property and free for anyone to take.
3) It is a call to trust in God.
The Shemitah calls to the children of Israel to remember Who their Provider really is and to focus on their relationship with Him while they enjoy free time they would otherwise spend in farming.  They are to remember Who it was who gave them the Land of Milk and Honey!  Those who put their trust in God are richly rewarded.
I will command My blessing for you in the sixth year, and it will yield produce for three years. And you will sow in the eighth year, while still eating from the old crops. Until the ninth year, until the arrival of its crop, you will eat the old crop! (Leviticus 25:21–22)


Though many Jews living in Israel today are not farmers, the lessons of the Shemitah year are still relevant.  The Shemitah is like an extended, year long Shabbat where we focus on deepening our faith in God and trusting Him for everything we need.  We are urged during a Shemitah year to focus less on material pursuits and tend to our spiritual life.

So we conclude that the underlying theme of this week’s reading is trust.  King Solomon wrote: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

Isn’t that the challenge? ‘…lean not to your own understanding…’  We’re all guilty of doing that, aren’t we?

Particularly on Shabbat and during a Shemitah year, it behooves us to meditate on this verse and ask ourselves: How much do I depend on my own understanding and/or perception of events and circumstances?   You may remember that the prophet Isaiah wrote: God’s ways are not our ways…His thoughts are not our thoughts.  When we lean too heavily on our opinions, our perceptions and our attitudes, (thinking that surely we must be right!) we leave no room for God to share His ways and His thoughts with us about our life, our circumstances and our future.  Haven’t you been through something and wondered what in the world was happening, only to recognize – perhaps much later – that God was indeed at work in your life, even through that difficult time? Even when you couldn’t see His hand at all when you were living through it?  Hindsight really is a wonderful teacher.

In Tune with Torah this week = take some time this shabbat to reflect on all the blessings God has poured out into your life, how He has cared for you in good times and in bad, and let your trust in His unfailing love grow within you.

Shabbat Shalom!


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