Count off seven sabbath years — seven times seven years — so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. (Leviticus 25:8-10)
In this week's portion, the Jubilee year is established. Called yovel, our parashah explains how every forty-nine years — seven weeks of seven years — in the seventh month, on Yom Kippur, the shofar of freedom is to be sounded throughout the land for all its inhabitants. This iconic verse to proclaim freedom throughout the land is inscribed on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.
Parashat B'har begins in a very unusual way. "The Eternal One spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: . . ." (Leviticus 25:1-2). Since the Book of Exodus, we have come to expect phrases in the Torah like "The Eternal said to Moses . . .
It is not obvious that the compilers of the Torah chose to finish the third book of the Torah with a set of blessings and curses. A similar section of blessings and curses, yet much longer, is found at the end of Deuteronomy, the fifth Torah book.