- Before reading my Torah portion I have a few words to say.
- There are actually two Torah portions to be read today, I will be reading from one of them. I will be reading from the Book of Leviticus, which deals with laws that are called Shemita and Jubilee.
- These are laws happen to be impossible for anyone to obey...… I will be talking about them anyway. Because nothing in Torah is ever ignored or discarded. So…
- In this Torah portion, God tells Moses to tell the Israelites that when they get into the promised land, they may not plant seeds or harvest their crops every
- During that 7th year the people can all eat whatever grows on the land naturally, left over from the previous year’s planting. Everyone in the community can eat whatever grows on all the land. Slaves, labourers, and even animals can eat whatever they can find. So the Shemita is actually a release from hunger for the poor as well as a release for the land.
- In addition to that, every 50th year is declared a Jubilee Year. During the Jubilee Year there is no farming because it is at the end of 7 times 7 years…49 years. But there is much more than that.
- In the Jubilee year, people who lost their land get it back for free, slaves must also be released and are allowed to return to their families.
- The laws of Shemita and Jubilee are similar to rotating crops and that’s good, but they are, so complicated and so demanding that they were impossible to obey in biblical times and they are still impossible to obey now, even in Israel.
- There are three things I will talk about. One deals with impossible Torah laws like these ones, another is the Number 7 and the 3rd has to do with Poverty.
- 1st….. How do we deal with these laws?
- There was a Talmudic Sage who lived about 2000 years ago. He had a really weird name….He was called, Ben Bag Bag. He said, that when it comes to the Torah, “Turn it over and turn it over, for everything is in it..”. That’s what the sages did then and that’s what we do today. We try to understand what lies behind laws that are impossible to follow and from that…we discover how we should behave. We turn and turn the Torah, reinterpreting it year after year after year.'
- The 2nd thought is about the Number 7.
- Many things in Judaism have to do with this number. Rabbi Baron, who teaches at Aish Hatorah in Jerusalem, tells us about the number 7 from this Torah portion.
- In today’s reading there are 7 years and also 7 times 7 years all related to giving the land a rest and, also to providing for the poor…….. Just so we all know… Hungry Israelites did not have to wait 7 years to get a decent meal. There are other laws in the Torah that provide food for everyone, regularly. The Shemita is intended to add to the usual food for the hungry ….…in a big way.
- The birth of the Israelite Nation ……is celebrated by 7 days of Passover, and
Another weird coincidence is that King David, who is supposed to be a symbol of the messiah, was the 7th son of a man called Yishai.
King David’s most famous wife, the wife he loved the most, and the mother of King Solomon was Bathsheeba, which in Hebrew is pronounced “Bat Sheva” that means the daughter of seven. … Weird huh?
At a Jewish wedding, to this day, seven blessings are chanted…and, among Orthodox Jews, one blessing is said at a different home on behalf of the bride and groom, every night for 7 nights following the wedding. That is called the Sheva Berachot…7 Blessings.
We all know about the 7 day week. That is described in the creation story in the 1st book of the Torah, the Book of Genesis. God rested on the seventh day. Almost everywhere in the world today, people have a 7 day week. It’s rooted in the Torah.
We also know that when a Jewish person dies, the family observes 7 days of mourning. We call it “Sitting Shivah”.
There is another very special 7 that is in our own family. My aunt Melanie’s birthday is on May 7th. That’s a good one! And…My Aunt Sarah and Uncle Brian’s Anniversary happens to be on August 17th, another good one.
Now about Poverty, Hunger and Slavery. That topic could easily take 7 years to discuss…I’ll try not to take that long!
- The laws in this Torah portion are designed to help avoid extreme poverty. No matter how bad things get, there is always hope for recovery.
- It is something all of us want, but there is a big problem with using Shemita and a Jubilee Year to get there.
- The problem is…that if all farming everywhere in the land of Israel, is stopped for a year…everyone in the country will go hungry… Either God didn’t think this through thoroughly, or if we Turn the Torah and Turn it, we will discover, something significant.
- In fact, our Sages turned this Torah teaching and turned it. From this they and we, understand, that, when our fellow human beings are suffering in extreme poverty, it is our our obligation, to help in every way possible. We are taught that this is not an option. It is not a “feely good”, kind of thing. We are not being generous or wonderful when we donate to charity or give a panhandler some money. According to Torah, it is something we must do. It is just as serious a commandment as the Shemita and Jubilee Years.
- My Mom and Dad and all my grandparents have shown me by example, to support those in need, to not only give a homeless person who is begging on the street, some money or even some food, but also to say….a friendly and encouraging word to that person. It’s important for me to be helpful.
- That is why I have worked to provide exposure and money to my favorite support group, which is called, because I am A Girl. This is a foundation that helps girls that aren’t nearly as fortunate as us. They are part of Plan, who also do amazing work for children’s rights all across the world. Because, of because I am a girl there are now girls making a huge difference in everyone’s lives today. This foundation is ensuring brighter, safer futures for millions of girls thousands of miles away. An example of this is, give a girl a loan, she will buy a cow, the milk profits will support her family, soon the cow is a herd, she then becomes a business owner who brings her village clean water, now the men respect her so, she is invited to the village council, when she is there she influences everyone that ALL girls are valuable, pretty soon more girls have a chance to thrive. Imagine this times 600 million girls, and you’ve just changed the course of history. This is why I have been raising all this money.
- I will do my best to take the Torah and Turn it and Turn it and to learn from it, so that as I grow I will continue to learn not just what the words say to me, but what message lies behind them. I will always be grateful for my good fortune and never forget those who are not as blessed as I am and as the Law of Shemita indicates, I will always be conscious of the need to be kind, to people, and also to be kind to the land that is in our care.
- I am very, very, grateful right now, to my Mom and Dad for bringing me into this world, for teaching me, not just by words but also by example how to be compassionate and caring for everyone I meet. Thank you, for all the work you put into arranging the celebration of my Bat Mitzvah. Thank you Lexi, for singing along with me as we both learned the melodies for this service and, thank you, for being the best sister that anyone could hope for. I love you Lexi and I love you Mommy and Daddy. I also thank all of you who helped me with Because I am A Girl.