Torah Tidbits


Tidbits of Torah: The Art of Living with Soul…

 Shabbat Parashat Behar-Bechukkotay

 Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh 

May 4, 2013 – 24 Iyyar 5773   

The Art of Living with Soul…

In his book: “Why Be Jewish?,” David J. Wolpe writes: 

“The spark of soul inside each of us is unique.  Out of the billions who live, who have lived, no one has shared exactly our secret; no one will ever be as close to it or understand it as we do.  To lose that in the surface turmoil of everyday life is a tragedy.

A soul is both a hearty and a fragile thing.  So long as there is life in us it persists, yet it is easily chilled or silenced.  The mystery is to find a way to live in a frantic and fast-paced world that does not do violence to our conscience, that does not stunt our souls.”

How true!  It takes time for us to become cognizant of the soul within us. Then, it takes more time for us to figure out how our unique soul can connect with and contribute to the world around us.  

 In this week’s double Torah portion of Behar and Bechukkotay, Torah suggests to us a framework within which we may develop the soul within us even as we engage in the tumultuous world around us.  

I refer to the Toraitic mitzvoth of the Sabbatical Year, the Jubileee Year, and the weekly celebration of Shabbat.  These mitzvoth are presented to us in Parashat Behar, along with the injunction to strive for holiness, for God is holy.

In connection with the Sabbatical year, the Jubiliee year, and Shabbat, the number 7 resonates repeatedly in our parsha.  The Sabbatical year is defined as the seventh year in a repeating cycle of years.  

Today, we may think of a sabbatical as a sabbatical from work, but the Torah envisioned more than that.  The Torah envisioned a Sabbatical of the Land. 

The message of Torah is that even the earth requires a break from its farming routine, in order to be able to fulfill its potential as a source of food and sustenance for all.  

After seven cycles of seven years, the Jubilee Year, the fiftieth year, was designed to make sure that people stayed connected with the Land and to remind us that we are all temporary sojourners on this earth.  

We may acquire ownership of land, but in the end, the land we acquire is a gift from God, and we do not have ultimate control over our material acquisitions.  

The opportunities to stop – to break the cycle of routine activity – whether it is once every seven years, once every fifty years, or one day a week – all give us time to reconnect with our souls, to allow our souls to develop to their potential and to fulfill their promise to those around us.  

Interspersed in our Parsha are reminders that we are responsible not only for our own souls, but for the souls of others who live in our area.  We were strangers in the Land of Egypt.  We must remember to treat strangers in our Land fairly and with respect, much as we would have liked to be treated when we were strangers in a foreign land.

Living with soul is a worthwhile endeavor – for each of us individually, as well as for all of us as a community.  Let us savor the opportunities we have to hone the art of living with soul and let us celebrate the gift of Torah!

This Shabbat we will recite the prayer for the new Jewish month of Sivan.  Rosh Chodesh Sivan will be on Thursday night and Friday of this coming week.  May it be a month of health, of happiness, of peace – and of soulful living! 

Shabbat Shalom! 

Rabbi Gilah Dror