Torah Weekly

For the week ending 17 May 2003 / 15 Iyyar 5763

Parshat Behar

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Torah prohibits normal farming of the Land of Israel every seven years. This "Shabbat" for the land is called "shemita". After every seventh shemita, the fiftieth year, yovel (jubilee) is announced with the sound of the shofar on Yom Kippur. This was also a year for the land to lie fallow. G-d promises to provide a bumper crop prior to the shemita and yovel years. During yovel, all land is returned to its original division from the time of Joshua, and all Jewish indentured servants are freed, even if they have not completed their six years of work. A Jewish indentured servant may not be given any demeaning, unnecessary or excessively difficult work, and may not be sold in the public market. The price of his labor must be calculated according to the amount of time remaining until he will automatically become free. The price of land is similarly calculated. Should anyone sell his ancestral land, he has the right to redeem it after two years. If a house in a walled city is sold, the right of redemption is limited to the first year after the sale. The Levites' cities belong to them forever. The Jewish People are forbidden to take advantage of one another by lending or borrowing with interest. Family members should redeem any relative who was sold as an indentured servant as a result of impoverishment.


Of Faith and Trust

"But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land. A Sabbath for G-d (25:4)"

Sometimes trusting G-d isnt so easy.

In this weeks Torah portion , the Jewish People are told to put down tools once every six years and stop working the fields for a year. G-d tells them to trust that He will provide for them. In the sixth year, He promises that miraculously there will be a bumper crop. This will keep them going for that year, and the next year and the eighth year. Because, of course, seeing as nothing will be planted in the seventh year, there will be nothing to harvest in the eighth. In other words, one years crop becomes three. G-d says this is going to happen with clockwork regularity every seven years. And it did, for hundreds of years.

Sometimes, however, when it comes to our own lives its not so easy.

Thats the difference between emunah "faith" and bitachon "trust." We can believe that there is a G-d who created everything in existence, who continues to sustain reality from one second to the next, a G-d who rules over everything, everywhere, everyone, every second. But, when it comes to our own lives, we can still fall short in trusting Him when the going gets tough.

The Israeli government has plans to make the most swinging cuts in the living standards of religious families in the history of the State. They propose terminating all kollel stipends currently nearly $200 a month for kollel students above 27, and halving them for students over 22. Many kolells have already closed.

A family with eight children will have their child allowance reduced by over 75%. This can often represent a third to a half of a religious familys budget.

80% has been cut in the budget for Torah institutions. Added to this, religious people, especially younger couples who have found cheaper housing in communities removed from the major population centers, are the heaviest users of public transportation. They face a 5% increase in transportation costs.

It looks a pretty gloomy picture.

What should our reaction be?

Well, let me tell you how one Rosh Yeshiva looks at it. This is a man who has on his shoulders the burden of supporting an institution whose yearly running costs are in six figures. On his last trip to America, he told his donors to prepare "tanks" to receive the outpouring of wealth that G-d is going to bestow on them.

Supporting Torah is a privilege, not a budgetary burden. In the desert, the Holy Ark needed no wagon to carry it from one encampment to the next because "to the sons of Kehat he (Moshe) did not give (wagons); since the sacred service was upon them, they carried on the shoulder." (Shmot 6:9)

In fact, no one carried the Aron. The Aron carried itself, and also those who "carried" it. The Aron carries its carriers. The Torah supports its supporters, not the other way round. If the new government budgetary decisions lead to a serious reduction in support of Torah, G-d will find other channels. "G-d has many agents."

Which is not to say that there may not be individual cases of hardship. For, after all, trusting G-d doesnt mean that Hes going to do what we want. It means that whatever He does is for the best, even when we cant see it.

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