This week’s Torah portion is called BeHar. It is the penultimate section of the Book of Leviticus, and it can be found in Leviticus 25:1-26:2. This week’s sections deal with issues of ownership: ownership of property and ownership of time. Although this week’s parashah speaks in great detail about ownership, the theoretical underpinning of the parashah is the idea of community.
Leviticus views the people of Israel as one community. As such, the reader notes a constant tension that runs throughout the text. This philosophical tension is based on the theoretical question of where do the individual’s rights end and his/her responsibility to society begin?
Leviticus argues that no society can long survive if the individual is its final arbiter. From Leviticus’ perspective, our responsibilities are not only to ourselves but to our community, to the land, to G’d and to time. Thus, we are not free to pick our own Sabbaths, but rather all Israel must make the seventh day holy. Through this communal ownership of time, we transform Saturday into a “cathedral of time.”
Leviticus would not agree with the approach that many moderns take: that the individual is the final judge of his or her own actions. Instead, the book would suggest that such a position will lead to the “cult of individualism” and from such a lack of community and communal responsibilities, all will suffer from a world of selfishness, isolation, anomie, and alienation. Something to ponder as we enter a period of summer vacations.
Youtubes of the week:
Three versions of the classic: L’chah dodi.
An American Version: