(This Torah Teaching is for Shabbat of May 8th, 2021)
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B’har (בְּהַר) — Hebrew for “on the mount,” is the fifth word in the parashah) and is the 32nd weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual cycle of Torah readings. The parashah tells the laws of the Sabbatical year (שמיטה, Shmita) and limits on debt servitude. The parashah covers Leviticus 25:1–26:2
Bechukotai (בְּחֻקֹּתַי) — Hebrew for “by my decrees,” the second word, and the first distinctive word, in the parashah) is the 33rd weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual cycle of Torah reading and the 10th and last in the Book of Leviticus. This Parashah covers Leviticus 26:3–27:34 and addresses blessings for obeying the law, curses for disobeying it, and vows.
Parsha Behar-Bechukotai Summary
On the mountain of Sinai, God communicates to Moses the laws of the Sabbatical year: every seventh year, all work on the land should cease, and its produce becomes free for the taking for all, man and beast.
Seven Sabbatical cycles are followed by a fiftieth year—the Jubilee year, on which work on the land ceases, all indentured servants are set free, and all ancestral estates in the Holy Land that have been sold revert to their original owners. Additional laws governing the sale of lands, and the prohibitions against fraud and usury, are also given.
God promises that if the people of Israel will keep His commandments, they will enjoy material prosperity and dwell secure in their homeland. But He also delivers a harsh “rebuke,” warning of the exile, persecution and other evils that will 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 God.”
The Parashah concludes with the rules on how to calculate the values of different types of pledges made to God.
Whiteboard Illustrations below from different years studies:
The haftorah discusses the punishments that await those who disregard God‘s law, and the blessings that are the lot of those who follow the Creator’s wishes. This follows the theme of this week’s Torah reading which details at length the blessings and curses.
The prophet Jeremiah rebukes the people of Israel for their idolatrous ways and for not having faith in God. He conveys God’s words revealing the cause and effect towards those who do not put their trust in Him — foretelling exile as their punishment — and of blessings for those who do.
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and relies on mortal flesh for his strength, and whose heart turns away from the God. He shall be like a lone tree in the desert, and will not see when good comes, and will dwell on parched land in the desert, on salt-sodden soil that is not habitable. Blessed is the man who trusts in the God, to whom God will be his trust. For he shall be like a tree planted by the water, and which spreads its roots out into a stream, so it will not be affected when heat comes, and its leaves shall be green, and in the year of drought will not be anxious, neither shall it cease from bearing fruit.”
The haftorah ends with the following poignant verses: “God who is the source of the hopes of Israel, all that forsake You shall be shamed, and they who turn away from me shall be marked out on the earth that they have forsaken God, the source of living waters. Heal me, O God, then shall I be healed; help me, then I shall be helped, for You are my praise!”
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Torah Parashah teaching with video and audio and illustrations by Rabbi Isaac. © 2021 Assembly of Called-Out Believers. Use by Permission.