Rabbi Dr. Raymond AppleRabbi Dr Raymond Apple AO RFD is Emeritus Rabbi of the Great Synagogue, Sydney. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem, where he publishes OzTorah, a weekly email list and website with Torah insights from an Australian perspective.
D'ror is a very strange word to use for liberty. The Targum Onkelos renders it as cherut, a more usual word for freedom.
The sages offer various linguistic analogies, such as a connection with ladur, “to dwell”, since a person with liberty can chose how and where to dwell.
Another rabbinic view links it with a noun, d’ror, a swallow, a bird which sings when it is free but not otherwise.
A person or nation blessed with d’ror in this sense is master of their own destiny.
The name of this week's Torah reading is Behar, which means “On the mountain”. That mountain is Sinai, and the topic spoken of is Shmitah, the agricultural sabbatical year (Lev. 25:2).
Rashi asks what connection there is between the place and the message. He tells us that just as the sabbatical year was proclaimed at Sinai, so were all the commandments.
If we look for an ideological link between Shmitah and Sinai, it may be that Shabbat (Sabbath) figures prominently in the Decalogue given at Sinai, and an extension of the weekly Shabbat is the 7th-year Shmitah.
If we look further, we find that taking off one day in seven and devoting it to God’s purposes, and devoting one year in seven to the Almighty, tell us that ultimately everything we have and do is due to the Creator.
The person who enjoys blessings from life owes his/her good fortune to God. The person who suffers from problems not only knows that in God he/she has someone to argue against, but since evil as well as good emanates from the same Creator there must be some purpose in whatever befalls a person.