Torah Portion: B’Har (On Mount) B’chukkotai (By My Regulations) Leviticus 25-27
HafTorah: Jeremiah 32:6-27
Tonight we finish Vayikra (Leviticus) by looking at these last two Torah portions. In our first portion we read, “And the L-rd spoke to Moshe on Mt Sinai.” In these few words are conveyed a foundational difference between Hebrew and Greek thought. As Western people we have been shaped by Greek logic and thought. When we look at scripture, especially in the Torah, we often come across the underlying Hebrew logic and thought. How do we see this Hebrew thought process here in these first few words? Chronologically where are we in the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt? The Temple or Mishkan has been constructed, priests have been installed, and time has passed. Yet, here our opening words are B’Har or On Mount Sinai. Moshe was on the mountain back in Sh’mot (Exodus). So why here at the end of this third book of Torah do we read the words B’Har? I think from G-d’s perspective time is not the point. Chronological order is never the issue with G-d. To the Father time or its passage is somewhat irrelevant. What really matters is the point G-d is making. We almost exclusively think of order of time. A+B=C. Yet, to the Hebrew mind maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t. What is important is that we grasp the spiritual idea G-d is getting across.
Here we see G-d making a point about holiness, a holy people, and a holy land. Israel is unlike anywhere else on earth. Deut. 11:8-12. So first here we see G-d telling His people that each 7 seventh year the land is to rest. The underlying message is also for the people – a message of faithfulness and obedience. Like the weekly Sabbath we again see the people of Israel being taught that G-d is the provider. Israel seldom kept the Shimitah, or Sabbath rest for the land, and because of this they were driven into exile in Assyria in 586 BCE along with the destruction of the first Temple. Notice how long there were gone. They were gone 70 years. So the land had its rest.
The next thing we read about is the Jubilee (Yovel) year which happened once each 49 years with the 50th year being a Jubilee. This meant no planting, reaping, slaves would go free, land would revert back to its ancestral owners and debts would be canceled. What is G-d saying here? He is saying the same thing but on a larger scale- faithfulness and obedience. You will notice that here the test is more difficult. What can we learn from this? Before I answer let’s look at the next and last Torah portion in Vayikra starting in 26:3. What do we read in this Torah section? It is a list of blessings and curses and the outcome depended on the faithfulness of the people to G-d’s word. We could compare this list of blessings and curses with another passage in Deut. 28:15-68. Here we read a much more chilling list of curses which are to come by not following G-d’s word. One difference between this passage and the once in today’s Torah portion is in Leviticus, at the end of chapter 26 we read where G-d will intervene and bring the people back to their land and restore them. In Deut. it is only in chapter 30 we read that G-d will not leave Israel or forsake them. Why the difference?
In Leviticus the time since Israel left Egypt was short. They had not had time to really grow in the love and knowledge of G-d. It somewhat reminds me of a new believer. G-d does great things for us when we are new in the faith and are childlike in our faith. But are we supposed to stay that way? No. As we go on our faith journey G-d expects us to mature and grow in Him. He expects us to know and recognize when we have gotten off the path, to repent and return to Him. If not, we find ourselves further and further away and the way home becomes harder to find. The children of Israel had had time to grow in their faith and understanding by the time we read their story in Deut.
Even the words Torah uses for freedom gives us a sense of truth. In Shemot 21:2 we read when a Hebrew slave was set free. The words in Hebrew are hofshe henam (completely free). It is like us when we come to the L-rd. We are not obligated to our former life anymore.
The second word we find in Leviticus for freedom is “dror.” The word also means generation or passage of time. So by the Yovel or Jubilee year we have progressed. How are we to mature in our faith? One way to mature is to live each day with a conscious understanding of who we are as a child of G-d and what He requires of us. In James 1:22-25 we see his advice for us on how to live our life – we are to continue in the Torah and be doers of the Word.
Yeshua lived His life exactly this way. He was faithful to what G-d’s word said. We can find liberty in His word. So my question about what G-d expects from us is faithfulness and obedience and to move ahead in a deeper walk with Him. Even the counting of the Omer speaks to us about the same thing. It is another group of 49’s. Moving us from freedom at Passover to receiving G-d’s word at Shavuot, embodied in Yeshua.