5/18/2012

Shabbat Behar Bechukotai

Begins May 18th 7:50pm. Ends May 19th at 8:50pm

Yom Yerushalayim Sunday May 20th

Rosh Chodesh Sivan Tuesday May 22nd

There is a word ‘Dror’ that is used in this week’s reading. It is now a popular Israeli name and it is usually translated as ‘Freedom.’ The context is the Jubilee year “And you shall declare it a release/freedom for everyone.”

Every seven years in agricultural Israel there was a Sabbatical. Farmers left the land fallow. Indentured workers returned home and the year was spent in study, community activity and both humans and land had a chance to recover. Feudal Europe used a system of crop rotation but it never considered vacations. All that peasants got were Holy Days and time for Church but otherwise back breaking work dominated their lives from birth to death. In Israel in addition to Holy Days everyone had a Sabbatical. There had to be more than work, fighting and accumulation. That’s what made the Torah such a revelation.

But more than this, every fifty years there was a Jubilee, and extra year’s Super Sabbatical when all land returned to its original tribe. Once in a generation everyone had to come together to reaffirm a commitment to the Land and to the Torah. It is not clear when the Jubilee was last observed but as history and industry changed our lives; all that was left was the idea and the dream. The word ‘Dror’ was only used once in the Torah for the Jubilee. So for the Sabbatical the word for ‘freedom’ was the one we use today in Hebrew, ‘Chufsha,’ ‘Chofesh,’ ‘Chofshi’ which implies absence of constraint. But the word for freedom in the Jubilee was ‘Dror,’ Super Freedom.

But there is one other use of the word ‘Dror’ and that is in Exodus 20 where the incense used in the Tabernacle is described and the Torah commands the priests to take some ‘Mor Dror,’ pure myrrh, a valuable spice and ‘Dror’ here meaning ‘pure.’

So the Jubilee’s use of ‘Dror’ for freedom means REAL or PURE Freedom. What is pure freedom, real freedom? Ordinary freedom is when you have been given the chance and opportunity to do whatever you like. Pure Freedom is when you use that freedom well, spiritually, constructively, to do good not just to indulge oneself.