14 May Rabbi Hillel Skolnik’s Torah Spark for B’har-B’chukotai 5775
This Shabbat we read from the double portion of B’har-B’chukotai which completes the book of Vayikra, or Leviticus, and also presents a confluence of events that only happens once every seven years. The first parasha, Parashat B’har, opens with the instruction that “Six years you may sow your field and six years you may prune your vineyard and gather in the field. But in the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath of complete rest, a Sabbath of the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.” (Leviticus 25:3-4 – NJPS) These two verses and the several afterward instruct that those within the land of Israel are required to observe a shmita year, a year of rest for the land when Jews are forbidden from working land that is owned by them. What makes this particular reading of these verses unusual is that this year, 5775, is actually a shimta year and so we find ourselves reading about an instruction that is currently being observed throughout the land of Israel. For all the times that we read through the Torah and ask ourselves how this is relevant in our world, the opening verses remind us that even as seemingly non-relevant verses absolutely do still have much meaning in our lives today, so many verses and commandments are directly applicable today. It is amazing to me, as it should be to all of us, that the Torah, a document which is literally thousands of years old, continues to have such meaning and practical application to us in the twenty first century. It only adds to the holiness and authority of the Torah and should cause us to find continued inspiration in its words and interpretations.
Rabbi Hillel Skolnik