SONSINO’S COMMENTS ON THE TORAH: Behar/Behukotay, Lev. 25: 1-27:34, for 5/12/18
1. This combined Torah portion deals with the Sabbatical year (every 7 years), the Jubilee year (at the end of seven sabbatical cycles) as well as with some humanitarian laws. During these key years the land remains fallow, property in land is restored to the previous owner and slaves are freed. In the ancient Near East, kings often make similar proclamations.
2. “You shall fear your God” (Lev.25: 17): Another translation for “fear” is “revere or stand in awe.” In our time, when one realizes the beauty of nature, its complexity and harmony, we need to “stand in awe.”
3. Lev. 26 concludes the section in the book of Leviticus called the “Code of Holiness.” One of the laws reads: “I will grant peace (shalom) in the land” (v 6).” In modern Hebrew shalom is “hello” or “good bye.” In the biblical period, it meant “wholeness” or “completeness.”
4. The Torah portion ends with rewards and punishments. In fact, the collective responsibility of the earlier times gave way (in Ezekiel) to individual responsibly. In our time, knowing that even the righteous are sometimes punished, we need to stress that we must do what is right, not for its rewards, but because it is the right thing to do.