Parashah #32:B’har Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:1-26:2

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #32 B’har (On Mount) Vayikra (Leviticus)25:1-26:2
Haftarah: (Yirmeyahu) Jerimiah 32:6-27
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Corinthians 7:21-24
This this week’s parashah addresses Shmittah, the next one being next Fall according to the solar calendar used by the Essenes. Man is given six years to work the land and plant crops; 6 representing the number of man in Gematria. However, on the seventh year we are to let the land rest and recover. It is a complete rest for the land just as Shabbat is to be a complete rest for man. We may also deduce that the command to observe Shmittah applies to everyone no matter where we live. This deduction is based on the concluding sentences in the previous chapter regarding other holy designated times of G-d (Lev. 23:14; 23:21).
Shmittah applies the concept of the Nazarite vow to the Land; the “aftergrowth” of harvest is left growing like the unkempt hair of a Nazarite (Num. 6:5). The grapes of nazir (consecrated) vines are not gathered; and Sabbath-ceasing means no m’lachah (assigned tasks). We are not to harvest what grows by itself from the seeds left from the previous harvest, or grapes that grow from the untended vine. However what the land produces during the year of Shabbat can be eaten. To those who were skeptical about how the harvest from the sixth year would last until after the Shmittah, G-d assured them that what grew in the sixth year would hold them until the following year. No attempt by farmers would make the land produce an “extra” amount and a super abundance would not result by transgressing the Law and working the seventh year. This is an important truth that has several implications.
Recall the narrative concerning the manna. No matter how much the people gathered each day, there was never an overabundance and never a shortage. G-d provided each family just what they needed each day. This concept is also found in the B’rit Chadashah where Yahshua tells us not to worry about tomorrow; it will take care of itself (Matt. 6:34). He also tells us that He will provide our food and clothing, that we are not to fret about either (Matt. 6;26-34). This promise from G-d comes with the obligation for everyone to follow His Law/Commands/instructions out of a loving obedience.
Today in Israel, there are many farmers who violate G-d’s Law and continue to farm through the Shmittah year. These individuals will be held to a higher level of accountability because they are in the Land and there is no question that they know G-d’s command concerning the Shmittah. Just as human attempts resulting from greed and a lack of trust in G-d’s promises will avail nothing but G-d’s punishment, Yahshua encourages us to trust Him and obey His commands and see that he is good (Prov. 7:2). This raises another crucial point for those who consider themselves “true believers” defined by YHVH/Yahshua in John 14, Romans 1-3, and the Seven-fold witness in the book of Revelation. All of the prayers in the world are of no effect if we do not follow G-d’s Law. This is a difficult reality for many who rely on the scripture that states the prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16). This is a true statement of course, but it is misinterpreted and misunderstood by many who have been taught to believe that their prayers are always effective even though they violate G-d’s commands by way of keeping pagan holidays, observing Shabbat on Sunday, a day not commanded by G-d, and eating forbidden foods, believing G-d’s Law was abrogated with Yahshua’s sacrifice. The last paragraph of Ecclesiastes12:13-14 tells us that the only thing that matters in this life is fearing G-d and keeping His commands. G-d may exercise mercy in granting some of the prayer requests for such individuals, but we cannot ignore the remainder of the paragraph in Ecclesiastes (12:14) which states “For G-d will bring to judgment everything we do, including every secret, whether good or bad.”
Examining Proverbs 28:9 we read “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination.” We need to carefully research the Hebrew meaning of “righteous,” and “hearing” for understanding these two terms correctly is essential to our hope for salvation. If you are interested in further commentary on this subject, please visit our website at http://www.rabdavis.org, and submit your questions by choosing “as the rabbi” link. I will be happy to address your questions.
G-d repeats His instructions to “ keep my regulations and rulings and act accordingly. If you do you will live securely in the land. (Lev. 25:18). We can easily deduce that G-d’s commands are not being kept in Israel or anywhere else by the majority of people based on the phenomenal exponential increase in punishments G-d warned people would occur with disobedience to His Law (Deuteronomy 28:15-69).
Imagine the curiosity of the surrounding nations when they observed the Israelites not working or planting for an entire year! This is a perfect example of the perfect testimony for G-d and His sovereignty over all the universe. Analyzing one reason for the Babylonian Exile, we learn that the people were not keeping the Shmittah as G-d commands. Basic human attitudes to the commands of G-d have never changed evidenced by history and current events. There are some evangelists who tout a growing number of people turning to G-d, but is that a true repentance and new direction moving to obedience to G-d’s commands, or a simple profession of faith without lifestyle change? G-d will sort it out in His time, but we must remain cautious when we hear such rhetoric and look for the fruits of the Holy Spirit which are clearly identified in G-d’s Word. Either we respond to G-d’s Word for the promised blessing and rest in our souls, or we continue to walk in our own perceived righteousness, ignoring the fact that G-d’s Word never changes. Such an a hypocritical attitude will result in the ultimate adverse result, separation from G-d for eternity.
The Shmittah year also required that any debts of the people in Israel be forgiven. This did not apply to pagan debtors. However, no one of the nation Israel had the right to oppress another. Seven years was the statute of limitations coinciding with rest for the land and animals. Peace and rest were given to those who owed money they may not have been able to pay.
The Year of Jubilee (Lev.25:8-13) is also defined in this parashah. Regulations concerning this special time is a unique piece of legislation that is completely different from any literature in the Middle East. One cannot help but see the wisdom of G-d and His sovereignty as His regulations span the economic, political, and social affairs of His people. This designated time is filled with prophecy. When the Jubilee Year came on the tenth day of the seventh month (Yom Kippur), the land had to be returned to its original owners. This was a stark contrast to some landowners who may find themselves in debt to the point of having to sell their land and themselves or their children into servitude. The main point of this law was to make sure that there should never be anyone, individual or government, who assumed an unequal level of power to the point that they were able to take people’s land and control the people. I submit that unfortunately this is the direction to which America and the world are heading, the One world Order that is clearly prophesied in G-d’s Word. A sad reality is that this is coming to pass because of man’s rebellion toward G-d and His Law previously mentioned in this commentary.
Now concerning the Israelite who became very poor. This individual was to be sustained by his own kinsmen or countrymen until he could help himself. Any money lent to him could not be charged interest including any food provided. The idea was that those who were helping the poor would or should have recalled the fact that they were once slaves in Egypt with no expectation of help save that provided by G-d, who ultimately delivered them. Indeed, how could they help their brother yet behave like Pharaoh? They were not o look down on their needy brother. Rather, they were to revere G-d. Taking advantage of the needy was and is equivalent to despising G-d (v.36).
If the needy individual had no hope of paying off his debt, he had to sell himself, sometimes to the one who had loaned money (2Kings 4:1). However, the person must be treated as a hired person and could only remain in service to the creditor until the next Jubilee year. This did not apply to private debts that had to be cancelled each Shmittah year.
G-d promised that if an Israelite was obedient to the word, just as we are required to be today, Israel would experience immeasurable material blessings. Slaves that were brought into this economic situation would also benefit. If the slave would reject his pagan background and adopt the beliefs of the Israelites, worshipping the G-d of Israel, he entered into the Commonwealth of Israel. It is no different today. If we want to become part of the people of Israel (true believers, not biological Israel), we must renounce our apostate religion clearly stated in G-d’s Word and follow the same Law/instructions out of a loving obedience to YHVH/Yahshua who is One and the Same; the complex Unity; Adonai Echad (Deuteronomy 6:4).
Once the individual became part of the Commonwealth of Israel, he was considered an Israelite. For another approach to this same concept, please read Ezekiel 37:15-28. Accordingly, the Law applied to him also. This did not overturn the social practice of slavery, but if the Israelites respected and observed it, it contained a structure that would eventually afford slaves their freedom. At the very least, the slave had a path whereby he could become a status of a hired servant with every human right.
Finally, Just as the Sabbatical Year has prophetic import for the Messianic Kingdom ruled by Yahshua our Messiah, The Jubilee also has many aspects of the kingdom. The word “Jubilee” is derived from a word meaning “to bring back; “to restore.” When Yahshua returns, the earth will be released from the bondage of sin after the destruction of evil (Amalek/Satan) at the close of the battle of Armageddon. Israel and the peoples of the earth will enjoy rest and peace not previously experienced to date. The year of the “Redeemed” will come when the “Kinsman-Redeemer,” Yahshua, will sit on the throne of David (See Revelation 20:1-15; 21:1-8).
The crux of the command of Shmittah and Shabbat for man, animal, and land is that G-d is in control and that all His creation needs rest from the mundane. We get a taste of this every Shabbat. We are responsible for promoting the welfare of another, including animals and the land. We are implicated in the fate of others to a degree. Those who are blessed by G-d; and anyone who has anything has it at G-d’s unmerited kindness, with more than they need should share with others who have less. In Judaism this is a matter of justice and not charity. This is what the concept of tzedakah entails. G-d is our Provider YHVH Yiryeh as first called by Avraham. If we purport being his descendants, the hospitality for which Avraham is known should be manifest in us. However, we are NOT responsible for the free-will choices others make.
Haftarah: Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 32:6-27
This is a perfect follow-up of this week’s parashah. The punishments that await those who choose to disregard G-d’s Torah are compared to the blessings for those who are obedient. Jeremiah rebukes the Israelites for their idolatrous ways and for their lack of faith in G-d. This is not unlike what we see in American society and globally. Jeremiah conveys G-d’s words of wrath for those who do not trust G-d, foretelling exile as their punishment. Think for a moment on what Jeremiah must have thought when G-d told him to tell the Israelites what was to come and of his own imprisonment. He must have had some mental conflicts and lots of questions unless he was so attuned to G-d that his trust was unwavering. We need to think about the following passage and consider where we are in the spiritual scheme of things:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and relies on mortal flesh for his strength, and whose heart turns away from G-d. he shall be like a lone tree in the desert, and will not see when good comes, and will dwell on parched land in the desert, on salt-sodden soil that is not habitable. Blessed is the man who trusts in the L-rd, to whom G-d will be his trust. For he shall be like a tree planted by the water, and which spreads its roots out into a stream, so it will not be affected when heat comes, and its leaves shall be green, and in the year of drought will not be anxious, neither shall it cease from bearing fruit.”
The haftarah ends with a passage we would do will to memorize or place somewhere where we can see and ponder it daily: G-d who is the source of the hopes of Israel, all that forsake You shall be shamed, and they who turn away from me shall be marked out on the earth that they have forsaken G-d, the source of living waters. Heal me, O G-d, then I shall be healed; help me, then I shall be helped, for You are my praise.” Again we see the purpose for our lives; that G-d may be glorified and praised; that all the nations will know that He is Adonai. Our best weapon is a consistent lifestyle based on and guided by G-d’s Torah.
Let us not waste our time engaging in and listening to all the media hype about the end of the world, ancient aliens, comets, contrails, or anything else that distracts so many from studying and internalizing G-d’s regulations, statutes, and laws. If we are sincerely concerned about the future, we need look no further than G-d’s Torah for the answers and how to prepare for it. This isn’t beyond us. We must place our trust and obedience with the Creator of the universe. There is no higher authority.
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Corinthians 7:21-24.
“Were you a slave when you were called? Well, don’t let it bother you; although if you can gain your freedom, take advantage of the opportunity. For a person who was a slave when he was called is the L-rd’s freedman; likewise, someone who was a free man when he was called is a slave to the Messiah. You were bought at a price, so do not become slaves of other human beings. Brothers, let each one remain with G-d in the condition in which he was called.”
“For a person who was slave when he was called is the L-rd’s freedman.”This statement has application in the physical and spiritual realms. We are not to place ourselves in any position in which we become slaves to human masters. This includes monetary or any other type of indebtedness. Recall the scenario in an earlier parashah whereby a slave takes an awl in his ear as a sign that he chooses to remain a slave to his human master (Deut. 17:17). This is not a situation to which we should voluntarily submit. However, if we find ourselves physically imprisoned, we can gain spiritual freedom by choosing to follow G-d’s Torah. We may still remain behind bars, but we are then spiritually free. Once we choose to follow G-d’s Torah, we also become free to serve Him, no matter our condition. Yahshua’s sacrifice freed us from the automatic death indictment that would have been imposed had we continued to follow the ways of the world. At this point we become a slave of the Messiah for we are bought at a price. Here’s a news flash; freedom is not free! It never has been, nor will it ever be. The evidence is Yahshua’s sacrifice so often taken for granted and misunderstood. The passage continues “You were bought with a price, so do not become slaves of other human beings. Brothers, let each one remain with G-d in the condition in which he was called.” People are called by G-d in many different situations. Sha’ul was called to a different direction on a dirt road on a donkey. Mary was summoned by an angel. Moshe was called from a burning bush that was not consumed. Joseph had a dream. We must be ready to take every opportunity given us to serve G-d when and where He chooses to call on us. Thanks to G-d, His will for our lives is found in his Torah. All we need do is “Sh’ma Israel;” Hear (physically and spiritually) the words of G-d’s Torah, internalize that which we learn, and act upon it. We must render ourselves “user friendly” to our Creator and Redeemer. This is the message of the Sh’ma; this is the crux of Ecclesiastes; this is our whole purpose of being human (Ecc. 12:13).
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart