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Behar - Bechukotai בהר-בחוקותי

May 12, 2023
By Steffi Koslowe & Rebecca Schwartz

This week we read two portions - Behar and Bechukotai. In Parashat Behar, Moshe tells B'nai Yisrael that when they enter the Land of Israel they should plant and harvest from the land and vineyards, but in the seventh year, the land should rest. Hashem assures B'nai Yisrael that there will be a fruitful harvest in the sixth year so that there will be food to eat until the end of the seventh year - then the cycle will restart. This is called Shnat Shmita, or the Sabbatical year. B'nai Yisrael are also told to count seven years seven times (forty-nine years in total) and on the fifteenth year, on Yom Kippur, will begin a great celebration called Yovel, or the Jubilee year. Bnai Yisrael then learned the laws of the Yovel year in the Land of Israel, which included the release of all indentured servants and the cancellation of all debts.

In Parashat Behar, God says, 
וקראתם דרור בארץ לכל יושביה יובל היא לכם

In English, that’s “Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Sound familiar? These words are written on the Liberty Bell. This is because our founding fathers looked into the Torah and were inspired to build the free country of the United States of America. 

In Parashat Behar, the mitzvot of Yovel are all described in terms of what we should be doing to achicha, or your brother. Why does the Torah use the language of achicha, your brother? It is because “kol yisrael arevim ze la ze,” all of the Jewish people are brothers and sisters - we are all family. In the Yovel year, we cancel debts and give back land to its original owners because after all, we are all family and we want everyone in our family to be treated kindly and equally.

This is one of the lessons that we all learned through our 5th Grade Mitzvah Club. We stocked the shelves at the JCS Kosher Food Bank so that anyone in need would have kosher food for the holidays, Shabbat, and anytime. I liked volunteering at the Food Bank because all the people who come to the Food Bank are like part of our family, and we want to make sure that they have everything they need. I am proud that I helped make that happen.

Parashat Bechukotai begins with a promise and a curse. If Bnai Yisrael follows Hashem’s laws and commandments, Hashem will bless them; their land will be fertile and their lives will be peaceful because their enemies will flee before them. But if the people do not obey, then they will be punished. Hashem urges the People to remember the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, when Hashem said, “I will be your God and you will be My people.”

In Parshat Bechukotai we learn that there are consequences for our actions. If we are good, we will get rewarded, and if we don’t do what’s right, then we will be punished.

At my camp we had a night when we dressed up like it was the year 2004. My friend was going to be one of the Mean Girls but other girls in my cabin also wanted to be the Mean Girls. So, the first group of girls who wanted to be mean girls thought it would be funny to draw an ugly picture of my friends being a Mean Girl. Once my counselor found out, she went to a head counselor and they told us that they do not accept bullying in this camp and that they would kick anyone out of camp who did it again. This is an example of the lesson of this parasha - that there are consequences for your actions.

Thank you and Shabbat Shalom!