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Behar (on the mount)

Leviticus 25:1 to 26:2, Jeremiah 32:6-27


In Parasha Mishpatim we read about the eved who did not want to attempt financial independence, preferring to stay with the household he serves. The strange ritual described there that sybmolically makes him part of the house now makes sense: at the yovel he would not gain (undesired) freedom since he was part of the house.

Verse 25:20 can be translated "And as you will say..." as well as the traditional "If you say...". God is not teaching that only complainers receive the miracle.

The parable of the Good Samaritan shows the importance of helping people in need no matter what their religion. The instructions of 1st Timothy 5:3-14 (about helping other believers) agree that assistance should be for those who really need it. These instructions seem harsh: the congregation should not help people whose families are able to provide some help, and it is preferred for widows to remarry than receive welfare. But the context is described in Acts 2:42-47: there were so many in need that the congregation's resources were fully devoted to being metaphorical "kinsman redeemers" for the poor and landless. (Only "metaphorical", because there is no record of the community buying freedom from slavery for an individual—perhaps this couldn't happen in Roman society?)

Traditional Jewish Commentary

The Tz'enah Ur'enah notes that God's preference for the humble (Isaiah 57:15) extends even to mountains: "We find that God let all the high mountains alone and gave the Torah on a humble mountain, on Mount Sinai."

Verse 25:25 has may-achuzato ("from his property"), showing that the poor man should sells only part of his land.

The rabbis created a law that redemption of sold land could not happen for two years. Apparently people were hesitant to buy land if they were not guaranteed at least two crops.

By Rav Yaakov Medan, translated by Zev Jacobson (link):

The special nature of the Sefira [counting] - preparation for the bond between God and His people - is strongly hinted at by the Korban Ha-Omer [offering of barley] itself. There are only two instances when an offering of barley is brought: the Omer offering and the Sota offering (brought by a woman whose fidelity to her husband is under suspicion). The period between the Shemot (Exodus) and the Revelation at Sinai is one of trial. The betrothed (Israel) is tested to verify the extent of her loyalty to the groom (God). Only once her unquestioning faithfulness has been proven can the union be finalized.

In a similar vein, we find only two places where the name of God is cast into water: At the Sota ceremony and at Mara. (After crossing the Red Sea, the Jews wandered for three days without water. When they came to Mara and found a well whose water was too bitter to drink, they complained to Moshe and he was instructed by Hashem to cast a piece of wood into the water to sweeten it - Shemot 15:22-25. According to the midrash, the wood contained the name of God.) In both cases, the betrothed must prove herself and her faithfulness.

Verse 26:1 is related to verses 25:47-55; An Israelite that sells himself as a slave to a non-Israelite is assured that the house he serves in will not have idols.