BeHar: Re-examining Our Priorities

London clock. Copyright ©2008 Steve Lubetkin. Used by permission.
London clock. Copyright ©2008 Steve Lubetkin. Used by permission.

Portion “Behar” (leviticus 25-26:2) contains a wealth of information on the Sabbatical and Jubilee years. Perhaps the most famous verse of the portion comes from 25:10. The context is a verse referring to Hebrew slaves that calls on society, in celebration of Jubilee, “to proclaim release/liberty, throughout the land for all its inhabitants”. The verse is the one engraved on the Liberty Bell.
The portion continues to list the laws and regulations for these institutions and the portion ends in 26:1 and 2 by reminding the people not to “make false idols for yourselves, or set up for yourselves carved images or pillars, or place figured stone in your land to worship upon”. The people are reminded that the worship of false Gods will not be tolerated; an obvious reference, according to Biblical scholars, of such on-going practices, many of which are referenced throughout the Torah.
In thinking about this portion and this conclusion, I mentioned the passage to a Torah class this past week. We discussed how this phrase may relate to our generation. The idea of “false Gods” related to all of us. For so many of us, we have spent so much time, often necessary, chasing or “worshipping” the gods of society: money, status, influence, power, fame? We now arrive at a stage in life when we come to realize that these really are “false” in the sense that we begin to rearrange our priorities in life. Given the two “wild cards” of our generation–money and health–that allow for this re-evaluation, many of us come to understand that, as we age, the chase after those “gods” really take us away from what is really important in life. Why are so many of our generation “giving back” to society, or re-energizing emphasis on family (see grandchildren)? We come to understand that what we wish to leave behind of meaning, is not the material but the spiritual. Maybe it is not coincidental that this is tied to the Jubilee year, 7 time 7 years! Hmm, just on the cusp of getting out AARP card! A time when so many of us begin to reevaluate our own priorities. Perhaps the concept of the Jubilee has less to do with agriculture and more to do with our own spiritual vineyard!
Rabbi Richard F Address

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