This week, Parshat Bechukotai, will in New York City be ushered in by candle lighting at 8:04 PM, which is 18 minutes before the actual start of Shabbat at sunset. Candle lighting in other cities can be found on the section of Chabad.org devoted to candle lighting times. When you are on that page, other pages on the site can be accessed and their articles printed up for off-line use on Shabbat. Aish.com also has material that can be printed out and used off-line on Shabbat.
Chabad.org has a post written for people who have questions about the special mission of the Jewish people titled “Why Are Jews So Ethnocentric?” Among many Jews, the idea of Jewish chosenness is an uncomfortable on. This article, as well as a couple of others linked to it, addresses this issue.
Aish.com has a video about depression, as well as Jewish approaches to the search for happiness. In Judaism, a faith in which commandments play a prominent role, the search for happiness is indeed taken seriously.
This week’s parsha was unevenly divided, with Tuesday’s reading comprising well over half of the parsha. This particular section of Bechukotai dealt with the admonitions, warning the Jewish people of the dire consequences of abandoning the Covenant.
One section of Tuesday’s reading talks about the land being forcibly given rest if the Jewish people in the Holy Land don’t let the land lie fallow in the seventh sabbatical year. This particular section brought home to me the dependency of animal, vegetable and mineral creations upon human beings for the fulfillment of their purpose. When we misuse the earth and what is in it for ungodly purposes, we are really terminating what should have been a path of ascent.
Imputing to the land a need for rest, (which is actually validated on a scientific level) reminds us that the earth and all that lives on it is dependent upon us in order to use it in the proper way. The land of Israel was created and given to the Jewish people in order for the commandments related to the Holy Land to be observed properly. There is no absolute human lordship in Jewish thought. Marriage, parenthood and business all exist in the context of obligations. We are reminded by the commandments related to marriage, income and other areas of our life that we are really trustees of everything we own, including life itself. Even land can not be sold as an eternal possession, but must revert to its original owner after a specified period of time. When someone owned land in Israel and sold it, the sale was only effective until the next jubilee year.
On the Jewish calendar, every seventh year, the land must be allowed to rest. Anything that grows wild on land during such a sabbatical year is considered ownerless, and is free for the taking by any passer-by. After seven such cycles of six years plus a year of rest, the year after the seventh sabbatical year is called the jubilee year, in which the land rests an additional year. It is in this year that land sold in the prior 50 years reverts to its original owner, unless the land is city property that meets certain specifications.There are many reminders in Jewish tradition that the only absolute ruler is G-d, who will claim His due after waiting for us to come to our senses.
Our time on earth is a time that should be spent making our actions a bridge for the creations of the world that unlike us, do not have free choice. May we at all times make the best of such opportunities. We wish our readers a joyous and restful Shabbat.