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Parshiyot Behar-Bechukotai

May 15, 2020

In our D’var Torah, we first want to state that our world is currently filled with the question, what do we do when it’s hard to believe life will get better? Well, we rally around the hope that soon, in a few months, this will all be over with. That we will soon see blessings of health and normalcy take over our lonely uncertainty. However, it is natural for us to lose faith in the idea of this future, and that is when we, as Jews, can turn to scripture and to G-d as confirmation in our unsettled times.

In the first of this week’s double Parshiyot, Parshat Behar, we read that on the Mountain of Sinai, G-d communicated to Moses the laws of the Sabbatical year. This law requires that every seventh year, all work on the land should cease, and its produce becomes free for the taking for all, man and beast. We can connect this year of ceasing harvest to our weekly days of rest on Shabbat. Continuing on into your week, we urge you to take a moment of rest, whether you chose that to be on the Sabbath or not, try to do something differently, such as putting your phone away for the day, spending time resting and reading, or simply indulging in moments of deep relaxation.

For two years the land is to lie fallow. Nothing is to be planted, and G-d promises the Israelites that enough food will grow for them to eat and stay healthy until the harvest returns after their resumption of planting in the eighth year. Additionally, the text demands, every Israelite is to return to the original tribal land that was parceled out during Joshua's conquest of Canaan.

Similarly to this, in our world we are currently being urged to return to our homes and cease work for our own safety. For a while, nothing is planted and nothing grows. We wake up each day, dress ourselves and feed ourselves, but do little more. We may do online school or work from home, but we still spend our time hoping that a day will arrive when we can resume our plantings, enabling new crops, new projects, and new love to once again begin to grow.

G-d promises that if the people of Israel will keep His commandments, they will enjoy material prosperity and dwell securely in their homeland. But He also delivers a harsh “rebuke,” a warning of the exile, persecution, and other evils that would befall them if they abandon their covenant with Him. Nevertheless, “Even when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away; nor will I ever abhor them, to destroy them and to break My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their G-d.” This reminds us that if we don’t follow the rules that our society has currently placed on us with social distancing and other restrictions, there may be consequences, whether that is the threat of longer lockdown periods or the actual chance, G-d forbid, of contracting COVID-19.

We thank you for taking the time out of our busy world to think and study Torah with us today. We urge you to reach out to family and friends, and continue to turn to Torah if you’re feeling trapped in this quarantine, and, “Let your home be a meeting place for sages” (Pirkei Avot 1:4).

Shabbat Shalom

Lindsey Stevens and Joey Varcoe, Mountain Region Sh'lichim

Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.

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