Parshas Behar/Bechukosai

Behar focuses primarily on mitzvos concerning the land of Israel, beginning with the command to observe a Sabbatical (Shemitta) year. During the Sabbatical year one’s fields are to remain uncultivated every seventh year, refraining from the normal cycle of planting and harvesting. Similarly, the land in Israel is to remain unworked in the Jubilee (Yovel) or 50th year, at which time ownership of all land automatically returns to its ancestral heritage. A quote found on the Liberty Bell, “And you should sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land …” is taken from the passage describing the Jubilee year. Behar also speaks about the poor and downtrodden. Not only are we commanded to give them tzedaka and do acts of loving kindness for them, but ideally provide them with the means to raise themselves out of their poverty-stricken state.

Bechukosai, the last Torah portion in the book of Leviticus, begins by briefly listing some of the blessings and rewards that the Jewish people will receive for diligently learning and following the Torah. The Portion then shifts to the subject matter which has made it famous — G-d’s admonitions and warnings of the consequences if the Jewish people abandon the Torah. Step by step, the Torah describes the tragedies which will befall the Jewish people if they abandon observance of the Torah, providing an eerie account of what has been part of our history to this day. There is good news, however; teshuva (return or repentance) is possible at any time to avert an otherwise harsh decree. The book of Leviticus concludes with a brief discussion of tithes.

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