Parashat B'har

A New World

The reinterpretation of the term 'forever' encourages us to strive for new realities within our own lifetimes.

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On a national scale, consider the power of 50 days. In 50 days, the Jewish people were transformed from a bedraggled nation of slaves to recipients of the Torah. We attempt that same metamorphosis each year during Sefirat Ha’omer as we count off 50 days from Pesach to Shavuot.

Similarly, the Levite may only serve in the Beit Hamikdash (Temple) until the age of fifty. At some level, his world, too, has been completed at that age.

This is the powerful message of Yovel. Each seven-year shemittah (sabbatical) cycle represents a rung, a new level achieved within the world while Yovel, which follows the seventh shemittah year, represents the dawn of a completely new world.

Even for the rational Jew, unaware of the mystical notion of the Yovel cycle, the message of Ramban still rings powerful--a Jew need not die in order to arrive at a new world; rather, he can transcend worlds in his lifetime.

How fitting it is that at Yovel, the Jewish servant is forced out. He who has lost his sense of destiny and independence must be taught that a Jew is never consigned to such a fate. A new world with new hopes beckons.

How many times do we set boundaries for our spiritual goals? “This I can do, but I’ll never do that,” we claim. But slow and steady spiritual progress ultimately creates a nyer velt, a new world, a progress that allows us to be the very personality we “never” could be. That is the goal of life. We must take a moment, look at who we are, who we can never be and figure out a way to get there.

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Rabbi Asher Brander

Rabbi Asher Brander is rav of Westwook Kehillah in Los Angeles, California.