Behar (Lev. 25:1-26:2)

I have been dealing with a lingering respiratory syndrome (laryngitis, productive and non-productive cough, headache) and the time has come for a full court press because I have a little concert (madrigals class) and a big one (DVC) in the next two days, so if I am to be able to sing safely I have to pull out all the stops (am I allowed to mix basketball and pipe organ metaphors?).  My weapons (3rd metaphor?) include chicken soup, acidified aqueous concoctions (hot water or tea/ honey/ apple cider vinegar or lemon juice), water, cough drops, and long hot showers.  All of which is a long, and I hope not too feeble, excuse (at least an explanation) for repeating some remarks on Behar from 2011 .  By the way, the shmita (sabbatical) year is still observed in Israel, the last one having started in fall, 2007, so I guess we’re due.  I don’t know if the jubilee year is observed, though, or, if it is, how.  The shmitta year is for the land to rest, while the jubilee is more like a reset button.

“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,



Category: On 1 Foot

Parshas Behar

by S. Galena Posted: 07-09-2006(Viewed 959 times)

God: Don’t plow your land every seventh year
Jews: But who will provide for us in the 7th year?
God: Deal or No Deal?

God reminds them of tochacha (punishments)

Jews: Deal!



1,001 Jokes About Rabbis

By Dr. David Rabeeya

p. 32 (v. lightly edited)

A rabbi hated the entire ritual of fundraising.  In his IRS return, as a deduction, he wrote, “Ten thousand dollars for mental fatigue and psychological depletion.”  The IRS approved the deduction and, in addition, it offered him a free one-year sabbatical at the expense of his congregation.


Debate Over Sabbatical Year Drives Up Prices, Spurs Challenges to Chief Rabbinate [excerpts]

By Joshua Mitnick

Published October 03, 2007, issue of October 05, 2007.

Kibbutz Be’erot Yitzhak, Israel – Debate over how to implement the biblical injunction to let the Land of Israel lie fallow every seventh year is sowing the seeds for a potential rebellion against the state’s chief rabbinate.

Since Rosh Hashanah, when the most recent sabbatical — or shmita — year began, Israel’s Modern and ultra Orthodox rabbinic authorities have been divided over whether to recognize a long-observed loophole allowing farmers to symbolically transfer ownership of their land to a non-Jew for the year’s duration. In the past, farmers employing the loophole — known in Hebrew as heiter mechira, or “permission to sell” — have had their produce certified kosher. Now, ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, authorities in a number of municipalities are saying that the measure is no longer acceptable.

“We are worried about the macro-level,” said Be’erot Yitzhak agriculture director Shlomo Forscher as he stood in an empty field that will be cultivated in accordance with the loophole. “Agriculture in Israel can’t survive if it falls fallow for a year. We’ll lose market share.”

In a country where the agriculture industry is estimated at $1.75 billion a year, Forscher is hardly alone.

The biblical shmita year was designated in order to allow agricultural land to rest and to permit a redistribution of wealth between rich landowners and poor tenants.

————————-  (sent out in 2011)

Taco Liberty Bell

The Taco Liberty Bell was an April Fool’s Day joke played by food restaurant Taco. 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 Liberty Bell 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]Secretary Mike 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.


(The following was passed along to me some years ago.  I post it here in honor of Mother’s Day and in memory of my mother, Lillian Greenwald.)

Why God made Moms — BRILLIANT Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions!!

Why did God make mothers?

1. She’s the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?

1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring
3. God made my Mom just the same like he made me. He Just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?

1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men’s bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you Your mother & not some other mom?

1. We’re related
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people’s moms like me.

What kind of little girl was your mom?

1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.

What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?

1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your mom marry your dad?

1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my Mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that Mom didn’t have her thinking cap on.

Who’s the boss at your house?

1. Mom doesn’t want to be boss, but she has to because dad’s such a goof ball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What’s the difference between moms & dads?

1. Moms work at work and work at home & dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller & stronger, but moms have all the real power ’cause that’s who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend’s.
4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your mom do in her spare time?

1. Mothers don’t do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your mom perfect?

1. On the inside she’s already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of    plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I’d diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your Mom, what would it be?

1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I’d get rid of that.
2. I’d make my Mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.


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