Shabbat Behar: Valuing the Land J-Wire – J-Wire Jewish Australian News Service

Posted By on May 22, 2022

May 19, 2022 by Jeremy Rosen

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When you come to the land that I am giving you, the land must be given a rest period, a Shabbat to God.

From this, the law of the Seventh Year Release, theShmitah, sounds much like medieval crop rotation and good agricultural practice. However, calling it a God-like rest adds a spiritual dimension in addition to the physical.

In addition, the Torah goes on to discuss people who fall on tough times and the importance of helping them. This includes lending money without charging interest to help people stand on their own two feet and not be dependent on charity.

To us nowadays the idea of a Sabbatical is to take time off to nurture our minds, to study, to step back and take perspective.

We may argue that these laws are no longer applicable, so why bother with them?We do not know the reasons for the laws. For thousands of years, our commentators in every generation have tried to find them. But we cannot know for certain. What we can do is find relevance and purpose that will give us some guidance for life in the period in which we live. We can look for recurring themes as a hint at what is more important and see these as messages.

On the one hand, we learn to have respect for the land, nurture it, and appreciate it. And from this, we can deduce how important it is to nurture human beings too. In both cases, there will be good times and bad times. Times when we need to go beyond our immediate selfish needs and cope with famines, natural catastrophes, and human suffering. To think of others.

The Talmud asks why these laws are related specifically to Mount Sinai. Werent all of the laws given there? There is a Talmudic principle that when a law is taken out of context or repeated it asserts a universal principle. Laws are necessary, for every society and everyone. But if we only take them as laws rather than the ideas and spirit behind them, we will miss the point. And here the point is that land and people need to be taken care of and all laws aim at achieving these goals, the physical material, and the spiritual.

We have had a visceral connection to our land, and our communities for over three thousand years. The land is very important. It is our mother in metaphorical terms. But people matter more.

Leviticus Chapter 25 to26:2

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Shabbat Behar: Valuing the Land J-Wire - J-Wire Jewish Australian News Service

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