B’har-B’chukotei: You Shall Be Released!

One of the most interesting traditions of our people is the “Sh’mitah”, the idea of a Sabbatical year and a Jubilee year, which is the 7th repetition of the 7th year. This double portion contains a lot of very interesting, and to many, challenging concepts. Leviticus 26 contains a chapter of blessings and curses (“Tochacha”) and chapter 27 contains a listing of the value of people in shekels that was calculated in “sanctuary weight”, as if a person’s value could be determined by their contribution to the community. And, for you history buffs, Leviticus 25:10 contains the verse that we find on the Liberty Bell.
One of the themes that struck me, however, goes back to this idea of the Sabbatical year. There is the theological concept that behind the text is the belief that all things come from God. The land, our life, etc. Thus, the tie in with the Shabbat, we are commanded to allow the land to rest. The text links the idea of the Sabbatical year and the Shabbat. A not so subtle reminder that rest is a commandment–an especially important lesson in today’s techno crazed world.As the modern commentary “Etz Haim” states: “Because all the earth and its inhabitants belong to God, human beings cannot posses the land or people forever.” We must “release” that which is not ours.
Now this idea of release struck home. I suggest that the symbolic understanding of this concept can easily be applied to all of us. Many of us, throughout our life, have had to release something we held dear. Maybe a belief. Maybe children, as they grow and become their own persons. Maybe a relationship. Indeed, releasing sometimes, indeed, often, can be a positive; for in order for us to grow as a human being, we often find our self at moments in life when we, to stay healthy, need to release, to let go. As we get a little older and often look back on choices we made or did not make, consider how meaningful this idea of releasing in order to move forward can, and perhaps, has been.
Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min

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