Behar – A thought for the week by Mike Lewis
This Sedra is usually paired together with Bechukotai, but this year it stands alone. It merits this. Behar contains important implications and meaning.
There are seven days to Shabbat, seven years to the Shemitah year and seven cycles up to the year of the Jubilee. In all these time spans we end up with freedom. We have Shabbat for rest. We have the Shemitah year to rest the land and then the Jubilee for remission from bondage.
If your brother becomes impoverished and is sold to you, do not work him like a slave. As an employee or a [hired] resident, he shall be with you; until the Jubilee year he shall work with you.
But it is hard to accept that the Torah does not forbid slavery.
Your male slave or female slave whom you may have from the nations that are around you, from them you may acquire a male slave or a female slave. And also, from the children of the residents that live among you, from them you may acquire [slaves] and from their family that is with you whom they begot in your land, and they shall become your inheritance.
It is going to be much later on in the Torah, in Devarim, that we will be reminded that “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt”.
The Shemitah year reminds us that we do not own the land. We owe the land to God and we are just tenants passing through.
We cannot own other people. With slavery still around us in the world, it is our duty to promote freedom for all.