Behar, and the source of all sustenance


In Parshat Behar, G‑d speaks to Moshe about the laws of shemitah year. the shemitah year, the seventh in a seven-year cycle, parallels Shabbat. On a weekly level, we work for six days, plowing and harvesting our fields, and on the seventh day we rest. During the shemitah cycle, farmers work their land and reap the fruits for six years, and in the seventh year they cannot work their fields, do anything to help crops grow, harvest crops, or consume anything that grows on their lands. The products of the sixth year would be abundant enough to provide both that year and the next: a reward for trusting G‑d enough to follow that commandment.

Basically, that’s what it’s all about. Trust Gd. Remember He is the One from whom everything we have comes from. the shemitah the year is a reminder. It’s not taking care of your crops that makes them grow; it is not having a field that gives you food. If you trust G‑d enough to know that he is the one from whom all your sustenance comes, you trust that when you obey his command to let the earth rest, the food you have saved from the sixth year will be more than enough for the shemitah year.

If something grows on your land for a shemitah year, anyone, human or animal, can take it without asking. The land is not yours, it’s Gd’s; you do not have the right to refuse its fruits to others because it is no more yours than theirs.

after seven shemitah cycles, the fiftieth year is the young year. In addition to letting the earth rest, just as in the shemitah year, the young year also requires that the land be returned to its original owners. It is not enough to recognize that the food that grows on your land comes from Gd; we must remember that the earth itself belongs to Gd. So if I sold my land to you, I have to buy it back during the young year; Gd had designated this piece of land to me.

This parashah also has laws against fraud and charging interest. Business dealings should be conducted carefully and consciously. Rabbi Bunim of Peshischa pointed out that not only are we forbidden to defraud others, but we must also be careful not to defraud ourselves. You have to be real with yourself. Work on the development of self-awareness. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the wrong things about yourself. But also: don’t fool yourself into thinking the wrong things about the nature of the world. the shemitah the year tells us all we need to know – Gd is where all sustenance comes from, Gd is responsible for giving us everything we have.

Rachel Gilinsky

Rachel Gilinski loves rugelach, buying books she’ll probably never read, and, sadly, lashon hara.


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