Parshat Behar has no more than 57 verses, making it the shortest parshah in the Torah so far, if starting the cycle from Bereishit. The Parshah starts of relating the laws of the Sh’mitta year (Sabbatical year), that every seven years, on the seventh year one shall let rest and lie fallow their fields. It is on the seventh year they do not plow and produce from their field, it is a year to allow the poor, ownerless animals and converts to take from the produce of the field (Vayikra 25:1-7).
The number seven is a distinguished theme in the Torah; there are seven days of the week, seven heavens, seven years including the sabbatical, seven regions of lands. Also we see how holy the seventh son can really be; in the book of Samuel, we learn that Jesse had seven sons, his seventh was the future King David ; of the Hebrew months, the seventh, Tishrei, is special as the whole world and each year is judged on this month (Rosh Hashana 34a). Of the seven generations from the start of mankind, the seventh was accorded the best honor, Chanoch.
The almighty promises that he will bestow blessing of bounty upon one who does not work his fields on the Sh’mitta year (Vayikra 25:21).
The parshah then discusses the Jubilee year (Yovail), occurring every 50 years, this year takes place after 7 cycles of Sh’mitta years. On the Yom Kippur of the 50th year, a Shofar was sounded to pronounce the Jubilee, at this point, land and houses in the land of Israel went back to the original owner and all Jewish slaves were allowed to go free after their time in servitude (Vayikra 25:10).
The Torah then talks about the prohibitions of overcharging and hurting other Jews feelings. Included in this, one should refrain from reminding someone of his past behavior also if one is asked a question by another, they should not reply rudely or give an incorrect answer. It is also prohibited to call another Jew by an insulting nickname (Bava Mesia 58b).
The Torah then relates the laws of redeeming houses and fields in the land of Israel. In the book of Joshua, we learn that when all the tribes lived in Israel in their allotted territories, it was stated that it was forbidden to sell his house or field in order to raise cash to acquire anything. He was allowed to sell his property only if on the verge of dire need. If one did sell his field, a relative had the opportunity to redeem it for them. In Megilla Ruth, we learn how Boaz redeemed a field of Ruth’s mother in law, Naomi (Megillat Ruth 4:9-10/ Erchin 33).
If a house was sold in a walled city, it could be redeemed immediately from any time up to one year of the sale and was not returned on the Jubilee. If a house in an open city was sold, it could also be redeemed immediately and was returned in Jubilee. If it was a field, it could be redeemed after two productive years after the sale, indefinitely (Vayikra 25:23-34). When the land was divided in Joshua’s time, each tribe was allotted land by a divine lottery suited to the specific characteristic of the tribe.
The Torah then relates the obligation of putting a needy Jew back on his feet, by giving out loans, helping them in business and giving charity (Chagiga 5a).
The Parshah then orders us to treat ones Hebrew servant well (Vayikra 25:39-43), for example giving them good clothes, bedding and food. The Talmud teaches us that 'one who buys himself a slave buys himself a master' (Kiddushin 20a). This shows that if one is employing someone even in modern days, it is proper to work them under suitable conditions to make them as comfortable as possible, while they are under the persons domain.
The Haftorah for this weeks reading comes from Chapter 32 in the book of Jeremiah (Yirmiyahu), this Haftorah relates the story of G-d’s message of hope to Jeremiah, at a time when all seemed to be lost. This message was given while he was in prison and the Babylonian siege was taking place. In the midst of Jeremiah’s imprisonment came G-d’s command that he was to redeem a family property. Also G-d informed Jeremiah that no tragedy is so great or downfall so complete that it is beyond G-d’s power to change it to hope and rebirth (Jeremiah 32:6-27).
I would like to dedicate this Dvar Torah in memory of Ben Bernstein, his Hebrew name being, Benyamin Ben Mordechai, who sadly passed away 6 years ago, may you please all do good deeds in his memory.