Parashat Behar // “On Mount Sinai”

- א י ע -

Why are slavery and inequality divine gifts?

We must help our neighbors so that they don’t fall

״and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family” Leviticus 25:10

  • It is our duty to help others before they collapse. This can be accomplished by providing them with support and holding. To witness our neighbor’s disgrace is an honor because it means that we have been personally granted the opportunity to help them. It is God’s way of endowing the world with blessings, by calling upon those who have received more to give to those who have received less. Though divine abundance can be found in everything, it is not distributed equally across reality. Our duty is to spread our own share of both material and intellectual blessings (which can be passed on, for example, through constructive criticism).

The main message of the revelation at Sinai is freedom

“Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase…And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it. And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubile. ”  Leviticus 25:29 – 31

  • At the end of the first year of a loan, the Torah allows debtors to redeem their home due to the emotional attachment they have developed in this time frame. Likewise, all sold fields are returned to their original owners in the year of the jubilee. These laws are designed to help people recover financially and reclaim their dignity. These humane norms embody the principle of: “Consider everyone as greater than yourself” (Epistle of Nahmanides).
  • Freedom is the most important value. This is also the main message of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt – physical, mental, and spiritual liberty. Nevertheless, every person has a degree of inner enslavement and every society is unequal to a certain extent. The Torah acknowledges these imperfect states and allows every person to attain true freedom and financial independence through gradual effort. That is why the laws of the sabbatical year are so crucial. A society based on oppression and inequality cannot redeem itself. It cannot stand for long.

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “On Mount Sinai”

  • There are two worlds – physical and spiritual. We must always remind ourselves of the existence of the parallel reality, where everything is light. For instance, even though we may sometimes be forced to give up on our profits (as the Israelites are commanded to do in sabbatical years), we should try to remember that this circumstance is actually a divine blessing.
  • The main thing is to not forget what is really important – our certainty that this universe has a Creator. Only when we internalize this insight can we free ourselves from the yoke of our own ego and material existence.
  • Though divine abundance can be found in everything, it is not distributed equally across reality. Our duty is to spread our own material and spiritual blessings by sharing them with others.
  • Just like the soil, our souls need to rest in order to bloom. When we indulge in material pursuits, we cannot thrive spiritually. Freedom from the lowly, physical world is equivalent to our personal release from bondage.
  • We need to share our blessings with others before they fall. The very opportunity to help others get back on their feet is a privilege. Inequality and slavery were created so that we would have the opportunity to correct these evils.

Sensitivity is the ability to take note of and respond to others’ needs and suffering.