This Week's Portion #32-33
Behar-Bechukotai | בהר-בחקותי | "On the mountain/In my statutes" (በሲና) ተራራ-በሥርዓቴ | (beSina) Terrara-beSh’r‘Atey [besrAtey]
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1. Torah Reading
- 1.1 First reading — Leviticus 25:1–13
- 1.2 Second reading — Leviticus 25:14–18
- 1.3 Third reading — Leviticus 25:19–24
- 1.4 Fourth reading — Leviticus 25:25–28
- 1.5 Fifth reading — Leviticus 25:29–38
- 1.6 Sixth reading — Leviticus 25:39–46
- 1.7 Seventh reading — Leviticus 25:47–26:2
2. Prophets Reading
Jeremiah 32:6-27/Jeremiah 16:19-17:14
3. New Testament Reading
Luke 4:16-21/Matthew 21:33-46
Portion Outline - TORAH
- Leviticus 25:1 | The Sabbatical Year
- Leviticus 25:8 | The Year of Jubilee
- Leviticus 26:1 | Rewards for Obedience
- Leviticus 26:14 | Penalties for Disobedience
- Leviticus 27:1 | Votive Offerings
Portion Outline - PROPHETS
- Jeremiah 16:14 | God Will Restore Israel
- Jeremiah 17:1 | Judah's Sin and Punishment
- Jeremiah 17:14 | Jeremiah Prays for Vindication
- Jeremiah 17:19 | Hallow the Sabbath Day
Portion Study Book Download & Summary
Behar The thirty-second reading from the Torah and second-to-last reading from the book of Leviticus is called Behar (בהר), which means “On the Mountain.” The name comes from the first words of the first verse of the reading, which could be literally translated to read, “The LORD then spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai” (Leviticus 25:1). This portion from the Torah introduces the laws of the sabbatical years, the jubilee and laws concerning redemption. In most years, synagogues read Behar together with the following portion, Bechukotai.
Bechukotai The last reading from the book of Leviticus is called Bechukotai (בחקותי), which means “In My Statutes.” The name comes from the first verse of the reading, which begins with the words “If you walk in My statutes ...” (Leviticus 26:3). This last reading from Leviticus promises blessings and rewards for Israel if they will keep the Torah, but punishment and curses if they break the commandments of the Torah. The last chapter discusses laws pertaining to vows, valuations and tithes. In most years, synagogues read Bechukotai together with the preceding portion, Behar.
Portion Commentary - Behar
The Jubilee Year
Thought for the Week:
The sabbatical year and Jubilee law reminds us that, ultimately, everything belongs to God. We do not really own anything. Instead, "The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains" (Psalm 24:1). In Western society it is easy to get caught in the trap of materialism. We unconsciously measure our quality of life based on the value of our possessions. A person cannot truly own things. We are just short-term borrowers.
You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. (Leviticus 25:8)
The sabbatical year occurred once every seven years. God commanded the children of Israel to count off seven full sabbatical cycles. Seven cycles of seven years multiplies out to forty-nine years. The fiftieth year was called the yoveil year. Yoveil is transliterated into English Bibles as "jubilee."
The jubilee year is supposed to be declared ten days after it begins by a sounding of trumpets on the Day of Atonement. During the jubilee year, agriculture is to be left fallow, just like a sabbatical year. When the jubilee comes, debts are forgiven, loans are cancelled, slaves are released and property holdings return to their original tribal/family owners. Jubilee years have not been practiced in Israel since the tribes went into exile, but imagine what it must have been like when the jubilee was kept. Suppose all your debts were cancelled and you were given an expensive tract of land that had belonged to your great-grandfather generations ago. Suppose you were a slave because you owed a large sum of money. When the trumpet of the jubilee year sounded, your debts were forgiven and you were set free. How could you keep from dancing?
This is what it is like to be saved. The Bible tells us that before knowing Yeshua, we are all debtors. Our sins collect like a great financial burden that we have no hope of ever repaying. Worse, we are slaves to the adversary. Without Messiah, we are spiritually hopeless, in bondage and without inheritance.
Yeshua is our jubilee year. He told the people in the synagogue in Nazareth that He had come to "proclaim release to the captives ... to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD" (Luke 4:18-19). The favorable year of the LORD is the jubilee year. Yeshua is a spiritual jubilee. His death pays the debt of sin that we cannot repay. In Yeshua, sins are forgiven and wiped away forever. He sets us free from bondage to the adversary, and, to our utter astonishment, He gives us the rich ancestral inheritance of a place in Israel. We are transformed from misery to spiritual riches. That's what salvation in Yeshua is all about.
Perhaps this explains why the jubilee year is proclaimed on the Day of Atonement. More than any other festival on the biblical calendar, the Day of Atonement teaches about Messiah's atoning sacrifice and the forgiveness of sins. What an auspicious day to declare the remission of debt and freedom from bondage!
Middot U,Mitzvot (Character and Deeds)
Integrity in Business
So you shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 25:17)
A person selling a piece of property might be tempted to abuse the laws of the jubilee to his advantage. He might sell a piece of property to an unsuspecting buyer at the full value of the land, knowing that in just a few years a jubilee would occur, allowing him to take it back. The new owner would be left with nothing. The Torah forbids that kind of transaction. Instead, the sale price of the land is supposed to always have the coming jubilee in view.
Otherwise honest and God-fearing people often feel justified to cheat or take advantage of others in business transactions. They behave as if there is a different set of ethics that rule the world of commerce. For example, a person who would never think of stealing someone's ballpoint pen does not bother to point out to a vendor that they forgot to bill him for their last shipment. A couple selling a house does not feel it necessary to point out to prospective buyers that the furnace is failing. A broker feels no need to let his client know that his fees are twice the industry standard. It's just business, right?
Business affairs must be held to the same standard of Torah as the rest of life. While discussing business transactions, the Torah warns us, "You shall not wrong another!" (Leviticus 25:17). Scrupulous honesty might not seem like a good way to get ahead in the business world, but it will get you ahead in the kingdom of heaven.
Portion Commentary - Bechukotai
Study to Learn; Learn to Do
Thought for the Week:
In Torah the distinctions between physical and spiritual are not so clear. The whole physical world is spiritual because God created it. The physical world was created out of the spiritual, and the spiritual is inherently present in all physical form and action. Therefore, in Torah thought, it is a false dichotomy to separate the physical from the spiritual.
If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out ... (Leviticus 26:3)
This week's Torah portion begins by saying, "If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out ... " (Leviticus 26:3). Isn't that a bit redundant? What is the difference between (1) walking in the statutes, (2) keeping the commandments and (3) carrying them out? In his classic commentaries on the Torah, Rashi wondered about this too and proposed a solution. He suggested that "walking in the statutes" refers to intensive study of the Torah. "Keeping the commandments" refers to learning how the commandments of Torah are properly kept. "Carrying them out" refers to actually doing what the commandments say to do. In other words, we should study Torah for the purpose of learning it, and we should learn it for the purpose of doing it.
This approach to Torah may seem obvious. It isn't. Sometimes we study the Bible simply for the sake of learning the Scriptures, but we never get around to doing what the Bible tells us to do. We often hear the Word of God and learn its message but fail to put it into practice. This is especially true in regard to the laws of Torah. In some Christian schools of thought, the laws of Torah are believed to have spiritual meanings instead of literal meanings. That suggests that the laws of Torah were never meant to be kept; they were only meant to be understood as spiritual lessons. Early church writings spoke about the spiritual meanings of the Torah's commandments while discouraging people from actually practicing the Torah. That kind of thinking resulted from the influence of philosophical thought in the early church. In the philosophical worldview, the acquisition of knowledge is a worthy goal in and of itself.
In Jewish thought, the purpose for studying is more than simply the acquisition of knowledge. Knowledge and learning are regarded only as means for better serving God. Therefore, in Jewish thought, we study to learn and we learn to do.