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Judaism: Go Tell It On the Mountain - Parshat Behar

This week's Torah reading (Parsha) is called Behar, literally "on the mountain."
Published: Thursday, May 08, 2014 8:31 AM


The Torah tells us early in this week’s reading to proclaim liberty, d’ror, for everyone who inhabits the land (Lev. 25:10).

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.

If we take it that the word has a three-letter root, d-r-r, there is an underlying meaning of “to stream, to flow” – which enables us to see the word in our verse as indicating being unhampered, unhindered, unrestrained.

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.

We are probably too small in the scheme of things to understand the details of God’s designs, but there is a comfort in knowing that God is in charge.