Parashat B'har: Can the Torah offer us an approach to these challenging times?

B'har, Leviticus 25:1-26:2

D'Var Torah By: Julia Blair Carpey

As we come together to commence the journey of this new and exciting North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) year, the world around us has been facing challenging times. Outside of NFTY, it might seem as though there is very little to rejoice over; however, when we are reunited at a NFTY event there is no lack of cause to commemorate and celebrate. In Parshat B’har (Leviticus, Chapter 25), God describes the law of the Sabbatical year. The Sabbatical year arrives at the end of six years of hard work in the land, in the market, in the Temple and other areas in which we instilled great amounts of effort. The seventh year is referred to as the Sabbatical year because we as Jews are supposed to take one whole year to sit back and relax. We are not supposed to reap the benefits of any crops previously sewn; rather, we are supposed to simply let our land and ourselves rest and recuperate for an entire year. Just as there were six years to celebrate and rejoice over the crops and vineyards, there are multiple events in our regions throughout this year to celebrate each other and our indescribable bonds in NFTY. Just like the Sabbatical year comes, and the Jewish people were ordered to let their fields rest and were not permitted to work, nor reap any benefits of previous work in order to allow the fields to recuperate, we do that too. NFTY weekends provide a sabbatical, an opportunity to rest and recharge our batteries. We return to the rest of our world more ready for life.

God said to Moses, “Six years you may sow your field and six years you may prune your vineyard…But in the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath year of complete rest…You shall not reap the after growth of your harvest.” As world events became more challenging, it became apparent to everybody that many people were no longer “reaping the after growth of their harvest.” However, it is comforting to know that much like the ritual Sabbatical year; these challenges are maybe somewhat of a refocusing, reenergizing, ritual as well. Sometimes cyclical world events help us refocus on family and friends. Financial challenges remind us to keep our consuming and spending in check and can warn us that the country and the world are quickly getting out of hand. In a way, these challenges give us a chance to get back on our feet before we plummet any further. Strange that a sabbatical may pose as a challenge.

There is no doubt that worldwide events affected all of us in one form or another. However, as we come together at these NFTY events, we are fortunate; enough to be provided with a family to lean on and support each other. It is at these events that our mind is taken off of not only world crises, but all; other personal crises as well. Between these events we often count the seconds until we get to sing, dance, pray, and laugh together again. At NFTY events, we love letting loose and being carefree, homework free teenagers. We don’t have the opportunity to see each other everyday. NFTY’s a place where we don’t; run the risk of tap-dancing on each other’s last nerves, and we don’t feel the need to soak up every piece of gossip about each other, just to make things; more interesting. The sabbatical of NFTY events is needed.

When we build our world back up, we are reminded of how fortunate we are that we pulled ourselves out, and how lucky we are to have the things we have.; When we return to NFTY; when we hug each other, jump on each other, and lean on one another, we are reminded of how privileged we are to have the NFTY; family that we have. And just like we are delicate with our world, our money, and peace, we carefully hold onto the time we have together until the buses pull away the last morning.

Food For Thought

  • Can you think of any other examples in the Torah that offer an approach to getting through challenging circumstances?
  • This Torah portion instructs to take a "complete rest." In what ways do you take a complete rest?
  • How does this help you to deal with challenging times?
Reference Materials

B’har, Leviticus 25:1-26:2
The Torah: A Modern Commentary, pp. 940-957; Revised Edition, pp. 849-860; 
The Torah: A Women's Commentary, pp. 747-764