Parashat B'har

Sowing Seeds Of Redemption

The Jubilee year encourages us to take time to appreciate our labors and the role God plays in our lives.

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The following article is reprinted with permission from the Union of Reform Judaism.  

Parashah Overview

  • God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites that in every seventh year, the land shall observe a Sabbath of complete rest: Fields should not be sown and vines should not be pruned. (25:1-7)

  • After 49 years, a jubilee year is to be celebrated when all the land that had been sold during that time should be returned to its original owners and slaves are to be freed. (25:8-55)

  • God warns the Children of Israel not to create and worship idols, and to keep the Shabbat. (26:1-2)

Focal Point

In this year of jubilee, each of you shall return to his holding. When you sell property to your neighbor or buy any from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another (Leviticus 25:13-14).

Do not wrong one another, but fear your God; for I, Adonai, am your God (Leviticus 25:17).

But the land must not be sold beyond reclaim, for the land is Mine; you are but strangers resident with Me (Leviticus 25:23).

Your Guide

To whom does God address the command "You shall not wrong one another" in Leviticus 25:14?

Why is this sentiment repeated in Leviticus 25:17, "Do not wrong one another, but fear your God?" What is the difference between the two statements?

What is the significance of the statement "You are but strangers resident with Me?"

This sedrah (portion) is primarily about observing the jubilee, a year of release, in the fiftieth year. Why is the command not to wrong one another juxtaposed with the command to observe the jubilee year?

Why is God concerned that the Israelites do not sell the land "beyond reclaim?"

We are commanded to observe a Shabbat every seven days and to observe a Sabbath year for the land every seven years. What is the connection between these two edicts?

What can we derive from the jubilee sabbatical that we can use to enhance our personal Shabbat experience?

By the Way…

Evidently, the Torah protects not only the purchaser from exploitation nor only the seller--i.e., the landowner who is forced by circumstances to sell land--since it warns both: You shall not wrong one another! It is justice and righteousness that the Torah seeks to enthrone and protect from the effects of greed (Nehama Leibowitz, New Studies in Vayikra, volume 2, World Zionist Organization, Jerusalem,1993).

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Judith Ovadia is the cantor at Temple Ohev Sholom in Harrisburg, Penn.