Parashat B'har

Sowing Seeds Of Redemption

The Jubilee year encourages us to take time to appreciate our labors and the role God plays in our lives.

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The excerpt by Buber seems to suggest that redemption comes from human beings and is reaped by God, instead of the other way around. What might the land represent in the scenario of human beings depositing the seed and God reaping the harvest?

What does Robert Frost mean by "She was our land more than a hundred years before we were her people?" Based on this statement, are we more or less consequential?

Isaiah 62:4-5 depicts a time when Israel will be God's beloved and the land will be married to God. How does this vision compare with that in Proverbs 3:31-32? What will lead to this intimacy between God and God's people?

D'var Torah

Imagine that God commands you to cease working for a living for one year at the age of fifty, just as you are in the prime of your life and at your highest earning potential. The idea of setting aside the work you do for your very survival for a whole year is daunting: It may even seem preposterous for you to imagine actually carrying out such a command.

At the same time, however, wouldn't you also feel a sense of excitement about the possibilities of a year spent unconstrained by the daily grind? What would you do with your time in such a case? What unrealized dreams would you attempt to fulfill? What unreconciled relationships would you attend to? What self-understanding would you pursue?

Often we rationalize our insensitivity and inaction as a necessary consequence of our too-busy lives. But suppose we no longer had that excuse to fall back on. Is this the challenge of the jubilee--not merely to refrain from working for a living, which can often be a distraction from the truly important work of striving for holiness and improving our broken world, but also to practice human relations with the conscious effort not to harm one another?

If the meeting of God and human being occurs in the acts of righteousness that this mitzvah seeks to preserve, perhaps the bounty of the land is like a flowering that occurs when care is given to one's garden, combined with the providence of rain and sunshine from the heavens. If one understands the opportunity afforded by such a once-in-a-lifetime sabbatical, perhaps one would be inclined to incorporate its potential into each and every week's Shabbat observance.

To urge us to stop and enjoy the fruit of our labors and to appreciate the role played by God in our lives seems to be the intent of the jubilee year. To study our actions and strive to improve our relationships with others so that we may add to the store of redemption's seeds through our righteous deeds is the potential consequence of observing Shabbat.

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Judith Ovadia is the cantor at Temple Ohev Sholom in Harrisburg, Penn.