Why Do Jews Still Adhere to the Torah’s Covenant?

Why Do Jews Still Adhere to the Torah’s Covenant?

May 7, 2021 By Jeremy Tabick | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

Why do we, as Jews, have fealty to the Torah? Why do many of us feel bound by the Torah’s laws?

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The Nature of Peace

The Nature of Peace

May 15, 2020 By Walter Herzberg | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

The description of peace and prosperity in this week’s Torah portion seems particularly fitting for our current situation.

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Leveling the Field

Leveling the Field

May 24, 2019 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Behar

Growing up in Philadelphia, I often went with classmates to Independence Hall, where I swelled with pride to see that the Liberty Bell bore engraved words from the Torah:

 “Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof.” (Lev. 25:10)

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The Theology of Meteorology

The Theology of Meteorology

May 11, 2018 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

Imagine if your weather app displayed not images of sun and clouds, but icons of good and evil, like this:  ☹. Each city might have a virtue index—with the weather forecast tracking not the jet stream but morality, indicated by a friendly or fierce face. City X has been charitable, so they can expect light rains followed by sunny skies, but City Y has seen an uptick in violent crime, so it is in for a drought or hurricane. Such a system sounds absurd, and yet it is basically what the Torah presents as a theology of weather.

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The Limitations of Ownership

The Limitations of Ownership

May 19, 2017 By Yedida Eisenstat | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

Rashi, the well-known medieval northern French biblical commentator, begins his commentary on this week’s parashah with a famous question, loosely paraphrased as follows: In what way does the matter of shemittah [the sabbatical year] have anything to do with Mount Sinai? In other words, the laws of Leviticus 25—beginning with the agricultural restrictions of the seventh year, the regulations regarding the jubilee year, limitations on sale of land and slaves—are wholly dependent on Israel living in Israel. So why, Rashi asks, were these laws commanded so long before they would become relevant? Of what relevance are the laws of shemittah to the Israelites at Sinai?

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בהר סיני (“At Mount Sinai”)

בהר סיני (“At Mount Sinai”)

May 19, 2017 By Louis Polisson | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

At Mount Sinai
We chose Her
And what did She say?

Declare liberty for boy and girl
There shall be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land
A Sabbath
For Being

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How Many Harvests

How Many Harvests

May 27, 2016 By Joel Alter | Commentary | Behar

In its radical reframing of our right to claim ownership of anything and anyone, Parashat Behar sets our mortality against God’s eternality, and our contingent lease to the Land against God’s permanent deed: “The Land must not be sold beyond reclaim, for the Land is Mine; you are but strangers resident with Me” (Lev. 25:23).

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Facing Our Past and Looking Toward the Future

Facing Our Past and Looking Toward the Future

May 27, 2016 By Michal Raucher | Commentary | Behar

Recently, the US Treasury Department announced that Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States, on the $20 bill. Tubman was born as a slave around 1820, ran away in 1849, and returned south repeatedly to usher more than 300 slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Her selection for the $20 bill is exciting news, because Tubman will be the first African American and the first woman to appear on federal paper currency. Women and civil rights leaders will be added to the $5 and $10 bills in the coming years, as well. While these changes are long overdue, the question is whether this change is merely symbolic or a further step toward acknowledging our nation’s ugly history of slavery. 

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We Are All Borrowers

We Are All Borrowers

May 13, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Behar

I love discovering rabbinic texts like the one above that make such radical claims about Torah and God in general or about particular laws like tzedakah (righteous giving), one subject at the heart of this week’s Torah portion.

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Our Role in Creation and Revelation

Our Role in Creation and Revelation

May 20, 2006 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

Parashat Behar–Be–hukkotai opens curiously enough on Mount Sinai — curiously given the law promulgated at the beginning of the Torah reading. There, at the introduction to this parashah, we find the detailed laws related to sh’mitah, the sabbatical year, as well as the yovel, the jubilee year. While sh’mitah involves a seven–year cycle of letting the land lie fallow and the remission of loans, the yovel reflects a fifty–year cycle involving the emancipation of slaves and the return of property to their original owners.

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