20 Iyar 5776 ב פרש תְּהַר, כ’ אייר, תשע”ו
This book Leviticus was written within a month and is rich in teachings and principles. Once again I say to you, no to legalism, yes to relationship with the Creator. My intention is that you start thinking for yourself. I do not want to teach you how to have rules and regulations. Rav Shaul when he was teaching new people, he was comparing religions; in one of his teachings he was warning the people against living according to the letter of the law while missing the spirit of the Torah. In Greek there are two phrases, ergo nomos – ἔργων νόμου meaning the Works of the Law – Legalistic observance of particular Torah Commands; and hupo nomos – ὑπὸ νόμου – Under the Law – ‘In subjection to the system that results from perverting Torah in Legalism. The works of the law meaning that the letter of the law needs to be obeyed (legalism) and being under the law means that you cannot do anything outside what the rabbis tell you. Both ideas mean legalism and Rav Shaul’s intention was not to speak against the Torah rather he was speaking against rabbinic legalism. He was teaching that we need to understand what our Creator was telling us and how to apply it to our lives.
I have been often been told by righteous Gentiles that they want to be Jews. I don’t understand why although I can completely understand it if they said that they want to be part of Israel and to follow the God of Israel. To be a true part of Israel is to appropriate and to live the Torah. Which Torah do we follow – the Torah of the Rabbis? Which group or sect has the right understanding? Each has their own ideas which they want to impose upon others. How many have come to tell me how much they care about me and are concerned for my eternal existence? If I do not accept what they tell me they want to either kill me or they call me heretic. This is happening all over the world right now. A basic principle of the Torah which began in Bereshit is that our Creator made us in His likeness and image. He didn’t make the Jewish people in His likeness and image and the Gentiles in another way. He made all humanity right from the beginning to be part of Him.
Our Creator called people into various roles but we humans have difficulty understanding and accepting our roles. For example, He told Israel that they would be a nation of priests. After the sin of the golden calf, our Creator then removed this role from all the people gave it solely to one family from Aaron who would hold the priesthood. The Levites, and other members of the Israelite’s tribes resented this and cried out that this was not fair. Later we see the rebellion of Korach who uses the words of Torah to attack Moshe who never sought the leadership of his people. After 2 years at the base of Mount Sinai and after having had the apotheosic experience of receiving the Torah which they were to share with the whole world, the people of Israel were ready to depart. However instead of sharing this treasure, they decided that they would keep it for themselves. Our Messiah Yeshua accused them of this. They had become very selfish and had lost sight of their role…to be light to the world. This is what religions do, believing that they are the only ones who are right and that everyone else is wrong. The only one who has everything right is our Creator and we as humans are truly blessed when we have sparks of Divine revelation that we can apply in our lives.
In Hebrew there are two interesting words: emunah – אמונה -faith and bitachon – בטחון – trust, sister words joined together at the hip. We always hear and speak about emunah. Everyone has been given faith; we have faith in something even if it’s just to believe that we are alive. There are people who have faith in soccer. We all have emunah but what our Creator asks from us is betachon, the root of which is “betach” – בטח which means certainty. We understand it as trust. A simple example is the chair you are sitting on. Did any of you check whether it would hold you or not before you sat down? Believe me if it broke as you sat on it, it would take you a long time to trust it again. Our Creator helps us in a process of developing trust. When He promises to do something you can be assured that He will do it. Why do we doubt? We do not trust ourselves, our own motives so we think that our Creator is just like us. There is a saying that every thief thinks that the other person is a thief.
With this I want to bring you the understanding of the shemittah and the yovel in this portion. Our Creator is teaching us about the 7th day, the Shabbat. Everything and everyone has the right to rest. It allows everyone to recover. The number 7 in Gematria means “complete” or represents a completed cycle. In the same way, in the 7th year, the land also needs to have a Shabbat. In civilizations prior to the giving of the Torah, the idea of allowing the land to rest for a period of time to recover already existed. The Yovel or Jubilee follows the 7th shemittah –7×7=49 and then the next year the 50th year is the Yovel. After number 7 comes 8 which has a totally new meaning — it means a brit, pact, alliance, covenant, a new beginning. The Yovel represents a new beginning. Lev 26:23 “The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land belongs to Me, for you are strangers and [temporary] residents with Me. Therefore, throughout the land of your possession, you shall give redemption for the land.”
We don’t own anything. We are allowed to use it but nothing is our property. Parents, your children don’t belong to you. They belong to the Creator. Your property is His and He can take it at any time. We are only sojourners. He is the one who blesses and sustains us. If we do not consider that and think that we own everything and it is up to us, little by little we are displacing the Creator, enthroning ourselves as the Creator. I can take care of myself. This is why He put the Shemittah first and the Yovel second. During the 7th year we are not to touch the land and it is open for everyone in the area to eat from. Look at how our Creator needs to work with our people in order to increase our trust. In the 8th year we start to sow and plant again which means we will be another year without produce. This is total trust. He will sustain us and provide for us in the 7th and 8th year. The word ‘betach’ בֶטַח is used in verses 18 and 19 as securely: 18 Wherefore ye shall do My statutes, and keep Mine ordinances and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety. 19 And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat until ye have enough, and dwell therein in safety.
יח וַעֲשִׂיתֶם, אֶת-חֻקֹּתַי, וְאֶת-מִשְׁפָּטַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם–וִישַׁבְתֶּם עַל-הָאָרֶץ, לָבֶטַח. יט וְנָתְנָה הָאָרֶץ פִּרְיָהּ, וַאֲכַלְתֶּם לָשֹׂבַע; וִישַׁבְתֶּם לָבֶטַח, עָלֶיהָ.
We are taught that we have to have faith. People do not understand that faith is given to all of us but how we apply it is what we have to look at; also faith in whom and in what. One of the most misunderstood passages from Yeshua is “if only you have the faith of a mustard seed, you would be able to move mountains.” Yeshua is saying if you really trust, everything is possible. If a small seed can produce so much, imagine what you can accomplish if you put your faith into practice. It takes courage to take a step of faith. Our Creator is always with us even though it is so hard to do. Yes we can move mountains but it is a process of growth and learning to give ourselves to a task, a dream. If we wait for God to do things with our arms crossed and think that all we need to do is to have faith without moving a finger, I can assure you that nothing will happen. Then we cry out “Where is God?” Do you know why there is so much injustice in the world? It is because good men say nothing. Do you know why so many terrible things are happening in the world? It is because good people don’t want to get involved.
The principles of Torah are to guide us on the right path. Our Creator tells us, “don’t do that” and we say He is a party pooper. We think that He is waiting to point a finger at us and trying to take away all our joy as if happiness were a sin. God is a God of life and asks us to choose life. What is life? We know we can do it because He promised us.
Each of us has our way of thinking. I will challenge us to be more open minded and flexible. We can work together without imposing our own way upon the others. It is our Creator who is our leader. Most want to be told how to see things and how to live. Our Creator gave us the gift of free will where we can make our own decisions. Torah gives us the framework but the final decision is up to us. It is our personal responsibility. He gave us the possibility of teshuva. My God is the God of beginning again and He is constantly renovating us. The land goes back to the original owners in the year of the Yovel. We don’t own anything. Every 7 days we start a new life. We are constantly growing and changing, having an experience with God. Our Messiah Yeshua didn’t teach us to follow him, but to follow our Creator. We don’t need to follow legalism but to follow the spirit or the principles of the Torah.