Monday, May 7, 2007
On the mountain of Sinai, G-d communicates to Moses the laws of the sabbatical year: every seventh year, all work on the land should cease, and its produce becomes free for the taking for all, man and beast.
Seven sabbatical cycles are followed by a fiftieth year -- the jubilee year, on which work on the land ceases, all indentured servants are set free, and all ancestral estates in the Holy Land that have been sold revert to their original owners. Additional laws governing the sale of lands and the prohibitions against fraud and usury are also given.
G-d promises that if the people of Israel will keep His commandments, they will enjoy material prosperity and dwell secure in their homeland. But He also delivers a harsh "rebuke" warning of the exile, persecution and other evils that will befall them if they abandon their covenant with Him. Nevertheless, "Even when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away; nor will I ever abhor them, to destroy them and to break My covenant with them; for I am the L-rd their G-d."
This sidra brings us to the conclusion of the Book of Leviticus. The prominent feature of our portion is the tocheicha - a sevenfold series of warnings or reproofs, which are chanted in a subdued voice. After outlining the rewards for the observance of God's Torah (peace, prosperity, and agricultural overabundance), the consequences for disobedience (disease, famine, siege, conquest and exile) follow.
The rules regarding the valuation and redemption of voluntary pledges are found in this parasha. An individual could vow to donate the value of an animal, a plot of land, an edifice, himself/herself or another family member to the upkeep and maintenance of the Sanctuary. The procedure for doing so and for determining the value of the property or person are set forth.
Given the talk about agriculture, I can't help but think about the seven species... apparently NAOMI TEPLOW was thinking about them too when she created this wonderful ketubah.