Shabbat Behar

Candles Friday May 9th 7:47pm
Havdalah May 10th 8:43pm

This week the short Torah reading contains a range of laws, from the Sabbatical, to property leases, to the treatment of indentured servants. In all cases there is a common thread that is not immediately obvious. Life is constantly changing and fortunes rise and fall. Change means that we can never guarantee what the future will bring. It is how we treat those either below us or dependent on us that defines us as good human beings.

The Sabbatical and the laws about property leases are part of a theme that we should never assume permanence either in our personal or work lives. To help achieve this we need breaks to our routines, during the course of the day, the week, the month and the year. These “holy moments” or “holy days” all help in getting us to live on a spiritual level as well as a physical one.

Too much dependence on materialism and society is in its way a form of servitude even if it is not imposed. But society gives people power over others. There’s nothing wrong with accumulating wealth and power so long as you are sensitive to those less fortunate. That’s why in the laws about people who work for you or you see enslaved by others the Torah keeps on reiterating “Do not treat them aggressively.” People dependent on you are still human beings who need to be treated with dignity. Too often our secular culture encourages abuse and aggression, the idea that only the strong succeed. The measure of good person is someone who understands that to get the most out of other people you need to respect them.