Behar (Leviticus 25:1 – 26:2)

This week’s Torah portion is a mere 57 verses long. It’s usually read as part of a double portion with Behukkotai (Lev. 26:3 – 27:34), but we’re in the midst of a leap year, so there are extra Shabbatot that need Torah readings.  Behar deals with the sabbatical and jubilee years and how to deal with their economic consequences, particularly families with relatives in need.  In the first part of the reading, the continuing emphasis on observing the Sabbath is expanded to include not only people and animals but the land itself.  The land is to have its own Sabbath one year out of seven, the sabbatical year, during which it lies fallow, though you may eat what grows of its own accord that year.  There’s a lot of discussion in the Mishnah concerning the details of what can be planted when and what can be eaten when.  

The bulk of the portion concerns the jubilee year, the fiftieth year.  The jubilee year presents a number of logistical difficulties.  First, you have two sabbatical years in a row, but that’s really just inconvenience.  Of greater import:  25:10 “You shall proclaim release throughout the land for all its inhabitants. (yes, that’s the familiar phrase on the Liberty Bell, translated a bit differently)  It shall be a jubilee for you: each of you shall return to his holding and each of you shall return to his family.”  So every 50 years, the Israelite was supposed to return to his family’s original land holding in Israel.  

My friend Stanley sent me a d’var Torah (Thanks, Stanley!), “B’har: Liberty and the Jubilee,” by Michael Carasik (author and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biblical Hebrew at Penn), available at in which the author explains how “liberty” or “release” actually signifies freedom from the free market that operates the other 49 years.  Let’s say you needed to sell your land, or yourself as a slave.  The purchaser will have to return it (or you) in the jubilee year, but that may be a long time off.  So your relatives are supposed to step in and redeem the land (or you) by paying the purchaser a prorated amount of the purchase price; the closer to the jubilee year, the less they have to pay the purchaser.  As Dr. Carasik writes, “The underlying idea appears to be that the free market, allowed to run untrammeled, will eventually knock things out of kilter; the function of the jubilee is to apply the brakes and, by redistributing the land every 50 years, start things over again from a position of radical equality. ‘The jubilee is for you,‘ the chapter insists in verse 10, explaining that true freedom depends on reversing the distortions of a free-market economy.”

Shabbat shalom,

Quotes about Rest

Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest
 Ashleigh Brilliant quotes (EnglishAuthor and Cartoonist, b.1933)

 “Rest: the sweet sauce of labor
 Plutarch quotes(Ancient GreekBiographer and Author, 46-119)

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.
 Ovid quotes (Ancient Roman classical Poet and Author of Metamorphoses, 43 BC-17)

I shall need to sleep three weeks on end to get rested from the rest I’ve had
 Thomas Mann quotes (GermanNovelist and Essayist , 18751955)

Excerpt from:

Talmudic Humor and the Establishment of Legal Principles:
Strange Questions, Impossible Scenarios,
and Legalistic Brainteasers
Hershey H. Friedman, Ph.D.

The following scenario may be viewed as the answer to a brainteaser: How can plowing a single furrow result in as many as eight transgressions?  The Talmud comes up with a truly unusual scenario (Babylonian Talmud, Maakos 21b).  For each transgression, the Biblical source for the relevant violation is indicated in brackets.  

An individual plows a furrow
1:  mingling seeds from diverse species such as wheat, barley, and grape [Deuteronomy22:9]
2:  during a Festival [Leviticus 23:7]
3:  occurring in a Sabbatical year [Leviticus 25:4]
4:  using an ox and a donkey yoked together [Deuteronomy 22:10]
5-6:  each of the animals in question is consecrated, set aside for the benefit of the Sanctuary, and is thus not permissible for ordinary labor [Deuteronomy 15:19]
7-8:  the person plowing is both a priest and a Nazarite, and the furrow is being plowed in a cemetery, which is off limits to both priests [Leviticus 21:1] and Nazarites [Numbers 6:6].

[Yes, I know, sometimes it seems like the rabbis had way too much time on their hands.  IGP]

Stock Market Jokes – Investments
STOCK: A magical piece of paper that is worth $33.75 until the moment you buy it. It will then be worth $8.50.
BOND: What you had with your spouse until you pawned his/her golf clubs to invest in
BROKER: The person you trust to help you make major financial decisions. Please note the first five letters of this word spell Broke.
BEAR: What your trade account and wallet will be when you take a flyer on that hot stock tip your secretary gave you.
BULL: What your broker uses to explain why your mutual funds tanked during the last quarter.
MARGIN: Where you scribble the latest quotes when you’re supposed to be listening to your manager’s presentation.
SHORT POSITION: A type of trade where, in theory, a person sells stocks he doesn’t actually own. Since this also only ever works in theory, a short position is what a person usually ends up being in (i.e. “The rent, sir? Hahaha, well, I’m a little short this month.”).
COMMISSION: The only reliable way to make money on the stock market, which is why your broker charges you one.
Money and Debt
A couple of friends meet after a long time:
“I divorced my wife.” One says.
“Really? How did you do it?”
“We hired a lawyer who helped divide the assets and stuff.”
“What about the kids?”
“Well,…we’ve decided that whoever got more money would also take the kids.”
“That sounds fair. And who got them?
“The lawyer.”


Taco Liberty Bell

The Taco Liberty Bell was an April Fool’s Day joke played by fast foodrestaurant chainTaco Bell. On April 1, 1996, Taco Bell took out a full-page advertisement in seven leading U.S. newspapers[1] announcing that they had purchased the LibertyBell to “reduce the country’s debt” and renamed it the “Taco Liberty Bell”. Thousands of people protested before it was revealed at noon April 1 that the sale was a hoax.[2]White House Press SecretaryMike McCurry responded that the federal government was also “selling the Lincoln Memorial to Ford Motor Co. and renaming it the Lincoln-Mercury Memorial.”[3]

1.        ^ abc Charles Leroux (March 31, 2006). “Fools’ paradise: Some of the greatest April pranks in history”. Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 2008-03-09. Retrieved 2008-01-18.

2.        ^ Sara Steindorf (March 30, 2004). “Historic hoaxes”. Kidspace (The Christian Science Monitor). Retrieved 2008-01-18.

3.        ^ Boese, Alex (2002). “The Taco Liberty Bell”. Museum of Hoaxes. Retrieved 2007-04-01.


Politics Defined (oldie but goodie)

SOCIALISM: You have two cows. The state takes one and gives it to someone else.
COMMUNISM: You have two cows. The State takes both of them and gives you the milk.
FASCISM: You have two cows. The State takes both of them and sells you the milk.
MILITARY DICTATORSHIP: You have two cows. The State takes both of them and shoots you.
BUREAUCRACY: You have two cows. The state takes both of them, accidentally kills one and spills the milk in the sewer.
CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
PURE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk.

REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbors pick someone to decide who gets the milk.
AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: The government promises to give you two cows if you vote for it. After the election, the president is impeached for speculating in cow futures. The press dubs the affair “Cowgate”.
ANARCHY: You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price or your neighbors kill you and take the cows.
Natural Rate Of Unemployment
Newlan’s Truism: An “acceptable” level of unemployment means that the government economist to whom it is acceptable still has a job.

Light Bulbs

Q: How many conservative economists does it take to change a light bulb?

A1: None. If the government would just leave it alone, it would screw itself in.
A2: None, because, look! It’s getting brighter! It’s definitely getting brighter!
A3: None, they’re all waiting for the unseen hand of the market to correct the lighting disequilibrium.

(The above light bulb jokes were mostly stolen from an article in The Wharton Journal, Feb. 21, 1994, by Selena Maranjian, who undoubtedly pilfered the humor from someone else.)

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One Response to Behar (Leviticus 25:1 – 26:2)

  1. Pingback: Behar (Lev. 25:1-26:2) | Torah Portion Humor Weekly

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