Leviticus: Chapter 25
Parshat Behar begins, “When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe the Sabbath of the Lord. Six years you may sow your field and six years you may prune your vineyard and gather in the yield. But in the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath of the Lord.” (v 2-4)
It’s a fascinating way to talk about the land. It is not to be taken for granted. The land is to be respected. We are commanded to respect the earth that brings forth food. We are not to take even the dust for granted. Being told to give the soil beneath our feet a rest helps us to recognize that every element around us has been created by a higher being. We are reminded “…the land must not be sold beyond reclaim, for the land is Mine; you are but strangers resident with me.” (v.23)
The discussion of the land is followed by rules relating to the treatment of slaves. Slavery is a forbidden concept in today’s western world. Although it does still exist throughout the world it is illegal in the west and many people pretend it doesn’t exist at all. However it WAS legal and accepted in the ancient world and in the ancient Jewish world. So, God gave rules about how to treat slaves and how to treat Jewish slaves. Respect for all human beings was elucidated in Judaism.
Individuals losing their livelihood, going into debt, and becoming impoverished were also realities as they are now. People sold themselves into slavery. The Torah presents laws which address that as well.
The laws of taking care of the aged, poor, the widow and the orphan appear throughout the Torah, and here we read about treatment of those who have fallen on hard times, and have lost everything. “If your kinsman, being in straits, comes under your authority…let him live by your side; do not exact from him advance or accrued interest, or give him your food at accrued interest…” (v. 35, 36, 37)
This Shabbat, the 20th day of Iyar, happens to be my late father’s yahrzeit. My father, יוסף חיים בן יהודה לייב ז״ל (Yosef Chaim ben Yehuda Leib) was a man who exemplified the lesson of helping others in financial need and supporting those who needed support. He was an outstanding doctor who had many farm families as patients. My Dad accepted cucumbers, potatoes, and honey as payment for his medical services. Medical fees were often waived. He treated his family with love, and his employees with respect. His first secretary was a young widow who needed a job. She was inexperienced at being a medical receptionist but my Dad offered her the job because she needed the livelihood. She learned on the job and worked with him for his 35 year career in Fort Garry, Manitoba. He was dedicated to his patients and they were dedicated to him.
The life my father led was modeled on the “middot” or attributes in the Torah.
We remember him fondly and with love.
Have a Shabbat Shalom,