The following article appeared two years ago on Globe Tribune. Info. With some adaptations, it is reprinted below.
This week, Parshat Behar – Bechukotai, candle lighting will be New York City at 7:48 PM, 18 minutes before sunset, when Shabbat begins. Of course, this time varies according to your location. Chabad.org offers a page on their site where you can find the time in your city. Articles from their site can be printed for reading on Shabbat. Aish.com is also a good site to print articles from for Shabbat.
This week, there is an article on the Chabad.org site about Don Greenberg, an observant Jewish man who was chosen as valedictorian it Binghamton University in New York City. The only problem with the honour is that the commencement exercises took place on Shabbat. With the help of university officials, Greenberg was able to deliver his commencement address without violating Shabbat. In addition, he was able to explain Shabbat to a large and diverse audience.
An article on Aish.com deals with Jews and China. It includes European Jews who took refuge in China, as well as a Jewish community that once existed in Kaifeng, China. Historically, the presence of religions in China that came from the west, such as Islam, Christianity and Judaism has been at times a sensitive issue, since religion was seen as another dimension of western expansion into China. Judaism, unlike Islam and Christianity, accepts but does not seek converts, which made the Kaifeng chapter in Chinese Jewish history far more tranquil than the story of Christianity and Islam in China.
A happy footnote to the Kaifeng Jewish story is the return of some descendants of Chinese Jews to their ancestral faith. The Kaifeng story might not be over at all.
This week’s parsha deals with sales of land and the indentured servitude of people. A person who enters indentured servitude does so until the sabbatical year, at which point they regain their freedom. Sale of land in Israel is likewise prorated according to the closeness of the sabbatical year. The parsha also talks about what an indentured servant may and may not be given for work. Weight is given to respecting the dignity of indentured servants. Interestingly enough, they may not be reminded of their former servitude after it is completed. The laws are not simple, but convey the general sense that the dignity of a worker must be respected.
Although certain laws only pertain to Jewish life in the Holy Land, there are still opportunities to create an ideal society, as well as better human relationships. There are actually sections of Jewish law dealing with permitted and forbidden speech. On the one hand, even rolling one’s eyes can be considered gossip. On the other hand, praising a person in front of a person who dislikes him and will be moved to speak ill of him is also forbidden.Additionally, if a person has information that someone is dishonest in business, a wife beater or a child molester, warning off potential victims is an obligation. There are people who devote a part of their day to studying these laws. An example of such studies can be found on the Darche Noam web site.
The fourth and fifth aliyas of this parsha deal with blessings for observing the commandment and curses for transgressing the commandments. All too often, we see a world in which criminality and ruthlessness is rewarded and decency is punished or scoffed at. A lot of the misery we experience in the world is because of our own failure to assign proper rewards and consequences to human behavior. From the Torah we learn what is expected of us. It is up to us to create the ideal society through proper administration of the law. In reality, this is a down payment on the paradise on earth we hope will come into existence. We all too often fail to see the daily miracles of our existence, miracles that will indeed multiply if we engage in true “Tikun olam” according to Torah guidance.
We wish our readers a joyous and restful Shabbat.