Hebrew Roots/Torah observance/B'har

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BEHAR / On the Mount Leviticus 25:1 to 26:2; Jeremiah 32:6-27

Behar, ‘On the Mount,’ has some very intriguing commandments in it, most of which can only be performed in the Land of Israel. When we review the history of the Ancient Israelites, they did not honor these commandments very well.

This Torah portion also details various commands related to the jubilee year. Yahweh tells us that the Land is to have a sabbatical rest every forty-nine years, with a jubilee year proclaimed on Yom Kippur. During this jubilee year, there is to be no farming and the Land is to remain fallow. It discusses the law of redemption and the appropriate return of property to its original owners, regulations relating to proper treatment of slaves and servants, and the redeeming of a poor man. The parashah ends with Yahweh telling us that we will be blessed if we obey Him.

The Sabbath Cycles - The Shemitta

Leviticus 25:1-6 “And Yahweh spake unto Moshe in Mt. Sinai, saying, Speak unto the Children of Yisrael, and say unto them, When you come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a Sabbath unto Yahweh. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof. But in the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of rest unto the land, a Sabbath for Yahweh: you shall neither sow your field, nor prune your vineyard. That which grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, neither gather the grapes of your vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land. And the Sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for you, and for your servant, and for your maid, and for your hired servant, and for your stranger that sojourns with you.”

The Sabbatical/Shemitah (7-year) cycle and Jubilee (50-year ‘Yovel’) year are based on the number “seven.” The Sabbatical/Shemitah (7 year cycle) parallels the seven days of creation and the Sabbath day. The number seven in the bible is the number given for perfection and completion. The number seven represents the cycle of completion in the creation. Thus the seven cycles of seven years lead up to Yovel/Jubilee and represents the perfection of perfections - i.e. the ultimate perfection.The Stone Edition Chumash, translates 25:2(b) as follows, “When you come into the land that I give you the land shall observe a Sabbath rest for Yahweh.” Though the rabbis say this does not imply that Yahweh rests, it acknowledges the fact that as Yahweh “rested” after His creation of the world, so too, Israel rested in the seventh year from its agricultural work on the seventh year to commemorate His act of creation (Artscroll Rashi Leviticus, p. 318).

His instructions of not sowing or reaping in the seventh year with the promise that He would send great blessing in the year preceding it so that they would have sufficient until the next crop in the new cycle, was a test of faith and of their willingness to be obedient to His commandment and give the land its rest and enter into the cycle of rest that He had planned for them also.

The prohibition only applies to agricultural and gardening work. The only thing that is permitted is watering the plants so that they will not die. During the Shabbat Year, the produce of the ground is without owner, so anyone may eat freely and bring home as much as needed for the day. For the poor, the seventh year of rest in the land was to provide a source of food for them. The owners of the field were not to harvest that which grew of its own accord or to prune or similarly to tend their vines or trees. During this year everyone, Israelite as well as resident Gentiles, had equal rights to eat of what grew on the ground.

The Sabbath of the land teaches that our means of producing an income belongs entirely to Yahweh. He gives us life, breath, land, health, eyesight, physical and mental abilities...everything that we need to survive. All belongs to Yahweh and He gives us everything we need with which to work our land, do our job, raise our family, educate ourselves, etc. We need to be constantly aware that the systems of this world are under the government of the ‘god of this world’ and are designed to draw men into captivity to the lusts of the flesh, being self-sufficient, and into a mind-set of determining their own destiny.

The Babylonian economic and political systems grip our world today and form the structure of our society. Babylon is to be destroyed with all its merchandise. See Revelation Chapters 18 and 19. If our hearts are bound up in the things of this world and our present cultural system, then we are still part of the system that will come under His judgement. What He established in Israel is His pattern for the Kingdom Age. We are to live in this world as strangers just passing through on our journey to our final destination. We are merely sojourners and pilgrims here as was Abraham and all those who have gone before us.

The 'Yovel' - the Jubilee

Vayikra/Leviticus25:8-10 ‘You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the sevens sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.’

The comparison between the Jubilee and the Sabbath is that both bear testimony to Yahweh’s creation of the universe in six days and His rest on the seventh. They further note that the seven years of the Shemittah cycle allude to the six thousand years of history that will be climaxed by the seventh millennium, which will be a period of peace and tranquility. (Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, p. 697).

Note how everything ancient Israel did in their day-to-day life brought them into worshipful relationship with their Creator by causing them to recall both what he had done for them (past tense) and what he would do for them prophetically (future tense). We also should follow this example and forge every aspect of our life into a never-ending recognition and praise of Yahweh’s past, present and future grace and love for us.

The Sabbaths of the land forced the Israelites to depend totally on Yahweh to bless them triple-fold on the sixth year so that they would have enough food to last on the seventh year as well as during year one again while awaiting the harvest of that year's crops. We need to have that kind of faith to trust Yahweh implicitly for our provisions. Think back of the ways and times He has supernaturally provided for you and your family when you thought there was no way through.

These laws concerning the land Sabbaths were a glorious opportunity to learn trust and to demonstrate their faith in Yahweh to bless them abundantly on the sixth year and see His miraculous provision, thereby strengthening their faith and receiving even more blessings from Him the next time, which resulted in them coming progressively to even higher levels of faith.

The Rabbis generally understood this word Yovel, to mean the 'ram's horn'. However it also carries the meaning of "set out" and "freedom of movement". It is also synonymous with a river to which the roots of a tree planted by the river's edge will grow. "This gives it the sense of a return to roots, meaning thereby that all the fields return to their original owners and each generation goes back to it's original status." (Munk Op. cit. 301)

The Yovel or the Jubilee Year was not only for the land, but for its people Yisrael. If the Children of Yisrael today as well as then would have allowed Yahweh’ divine providence to influence their lives, the corruption of society through murder, thievery, and every imaginable scandal could have been averted. The land is a divine gift from Yahweh. For everything is His; the earth belongs to Yahweh and the people that dwell therein for He has founded them both.

The ownership of the land reverts to its original owners during Yovel. To attempt to sell the land permanently is a violation of this commandment, and particularly to a non-Israelite who does not observe these commandments.

Prophetically, this symbolises the year of release from all bondage, all captivity and enslavement, when everything in creation goes back to it's original condition of purity and righteousness. For this the whole creation travails and groans to be released from its burden of corruption that resulted from the defilement of sin. Romans 8:22

Torah mentions in this parasha that the shofar should be blown on the tenth day of the seventh month which is Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement to announce the year of Yovel. Then it says that the year ought to be consecrated and proclaimed as a year of liberty.This blast of the shofar was called the shofar hagadol/the great or final shofar blast (to be distinguished from the first and second shofar blasts which occurred on the feasts of Shavuot/Pentecost and Yom Teruah/Feast of Trumpets respectively. This same event prophetically corresponds with the return of the exiles (the "lost ten tribes") to the land of Israel (which is an aspect of what the rabbis call the "Final Redemption") and the return of Yeshua the Messiah.

Messiah will come back to place his feet on the earth on Yom Kippur. When he comes back, new liberty will be proclaimed to all the inhabitants of the earth. This also teaches us that the foundation we have for eternal liberty is in the Messiah's death, which is symbolized by the Yom Kippur sacrifices, as well as in the forgiveness and obliteration of sins as a direct result of his death.

Walking As Pilgrims and Sojourners in the Land

As we approach the end of the book of sanctity of Vayikra, we find that the Torah turns to the subject of fair and just relations between man and man. We are taught to effect justice in commerce, not to lend money with interest, not to maltreat a fellow believer who has sold himself into slavery, and to redeem a field that had been sold due to dire poverty. A lthough the book of Leviticus/Vayikra treats matters of great holiness, the Torah wishes to communicate that the proof of holiness is demonstrated when morality prevails over self-interest in financial matters. Along these lines, the Torah prohibits wronging one another (ona’ah): And if you sell anything to your fellow or buy anything from your fellow’s hand, you shall not wrong (AL TONU) one another (Leviticus/Vayikra 25:14)

This means that, whether there is a transaction of land or movable property, both the buyer and seller are prohibited from defrauding or overcharging. A profit of up to one-sixth is permissible; with movable property, if the profit is more than one-sixth the sale can be nullified, and if it is exactly one sixth, the profit is returned and the sale remains valid. Even with landed property, there is a prohibition against ona’ah, although the sale is still valid.

In verse 17 the text says "you shall not oppress one another". This means to 'treat abusively' and prohibits wronging another by means of words, not to vex his fellow, nor to offer him inappropriate advice, according to the way and the pleasure of the advisor. In other words, not for personal gain. The Rabbis understand that the Torah here is teaching against any form of maltreatment, even when no monetary gain is involved, such as verbal abuse or misleading someone. In any case both applications of ona’ah have one thing in common: pressing one’s advantage to the detriment of another.

The fear of Yahweh is what prevents people from wronging one another. First of all, one who fears God knows that every person is created in His image to be like Him. Therefore he ought to be respected, regardless of his lifestyle. Just because he is a person, he ought to be respected. Deceiving anyone financially or tormenting anyone verbally is not permitted. One who deceive and oppresses his fellow man is hurting Yahweh. Therefore, fear of God will cause people to treat others with respect and love.

When His people live in the light of the knowledge that they are but passing through this life and all that they have and use upon this earth is but leased to them, they do not claim ownership of goods and property. In this mindset, all are but passing through this life on a pilgrim journey, partaking of the generosity of the true Owner of all things.