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Behar - Bechukotai

In this week's Torah portion, Behar - Bechukotai, the last Torah portion for the book of Leviticus, God tells Moses to speak to the Israelites. 

"and say to them when you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a Sabbath." 

God says that the Israelites can work the land for six years, but in the seventh year, the land gets a Shabbat, the land gets to rest. 

The Torah goes further: not only is every seventh year meant to be a Shmita year, aka a sabbatical year but after seven-time seven years, the 50th year is a "Jubilee," and that year too is a year of rest. 

During the Jubilee, all debts are canceled; slaves are released, and any land transactions which have taken place are annulled so that the land can return to its original caretakers.

God tells the Israelites,

"you shall proclaim freedom throughout the land," which, by the way, are the words inscribed on our nation's Liberty Bell. 

When I read this week's Torah portion, I see a God who insists that labor be balanced by rest. Just as we balance the hubbub of the workweek with a day of Shabbat, we must also balance the earth's seven years of producing with a year to lie fallow. 

In this Torah portion, I see a God who wants us to recognize that servitude is a temporary condition. That no matter what dire straits we may enter through financial necessity, illness, or other circumstances beyond our control, once in every lifetime, we should wipe the slate clean and enable each other to begin anew.

Going back to the biblical phrase and the words inscribed on our Liberty Bell, "you shall proclaim freedom throughout the land," I think it's important to remember our country like the humans who inhabit it have made a lot of mistakes throughout the years, but one thing is true we are constantly striving to live up to the ideals and values laid out by the founders of this country, and that are inscribed in the Torah.

Rabbi Sandra Lawson received ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in June 2018. She has served in the United States Army as a Military Police person with a specialty in Military Police Investigations, specializing in cases involving child abuse and domestic violence. Rabbi Sandra uses her rabbinic training to bring Judaism to where people already are in their lives. As a rabbinical student Rabbi Sandra received a prestigious grant to lead Shabbat services for unaffiliated Jews in a vegan cafe. She also received a grant to launch her podcast Minutes of Torah. Her vision as a Rabbi is to help build a more inclusive Jewish community where all who want to come are welcomed, diversity is embraced and we can come together to learn and to pray. 

Contact: slawson7@elon.edu

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