Sunday, 15 May 2011

Sefer Chabibi Deepest Torah: BEHAR: Child Vision

BEHAR: Child Vision

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Spending feels good. Whether spending money at the mall or time with one's friends, it is a welcome form of release.

In the Jubilee year all originally designated properties were to be released back to G*d, reverting back to their G*d designated tribal-based owners, regardless of intervening economic happenstance.

There are many levels of reading text. There is the plain meaning, the symbolic meaning, the homiletical meaning and the mystical, esoteric meaning.

The word "Jubilee" in hebrew is yovel. Livlot, in Hebrew, means "to spend," as in money or time. YoVeL means "G*d spends." The earth is His property, He can assign it or re-assign it to whomever He sees fit. G*d "owns the deed," so to speak, for nations, tribes, and even individuals. G*d is the ultimate owner of the land; we are merely its stewards. Like people, G*d feels good when he spends. And His credit ain't so bad either.

After seven seven-year cycles of Shemittah, of giving the land to an opportunity to rest, on the fiftieth year we have a super-shemittah year - a Jubilee year. We still observe the Shemittah year in Israel, but do we still observe the Jubilee year today?

The Talmud (BT Aruchin 32b) states "...deTanya, misheGalu Shevet Reuven veShevet Gad veChatzi Shevet haMenashe bitlu yov'lot,"

which means " we learned in a baraita (outside the canon of the Mishna), from the time when the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe were exiled (721 BCE), the (observance of) the Jubilee Years were anulled." I would say that's a pretty long time ago. It hasn't been observed for over 2700 years!

But the Torah is eternal and so even if the observance of the Jubilee Year is anulled, it is incumbent for us to try and make it relevant for our own day, perhaps in a different way.

"Behar" could be read as meaning " two mountains (bet=2 har)," for the Two Torahs- the Oral Torahand the Written Torah; alternatively as two parents-a mother and father- the father who corresponds to the Written Torah, with its overtones of strictness, and the mother, who corresponds to the Oral Torah's compassionate softening of the Law's literal meaning.

In verse 25:10, the text states "veshavtem ish el achuzato, and each man shall return to his heriditary property (achuza)."

And the Torah is suggesting to us, that from this perspective, we should re-imagine ourselves as young children, gazing up at the towering mountain-like influence of our parents. Further, leACHoZ, to "take hold," bespeaks a child-like imagery.

Children are usually seen as grabbing. But that is a misunderstanding. It's simply not true. Very young children (babies) just want to merge with everything around them. There is no "other" with a young baby. The baby puts everything in her mouth because she simply wants to merge with the whole world. It's not an ego thing for a baby. It's just the opposite. All borders are blurred- not because I don't want to see a border. There's simply a sense that all is of the same Divine unity.

On the deepest level the baby knows that everything is connected. Our task, the Torah seems to be telling us, is to recharge ourselves, to view life again from the perspective of an infant, and to know that G*d will meet all our needs for us. Some of us resent G*d because our parents may not have met all our needs for us.

In the shemittah year we let go of the land and let it rest and return to its own child-like, unrestricted, unpruned, untrained natural state of being. And on the Jubilee, the land itself lets go of its anthrocentric human-decreed owners and returns to its G*d-decreed state.

This reflects the double meaning of what shabbat means to us - as both well-resting and returning. That is why the word shavtem in verse 10 above is in the plural form even though it seems to be qualifying the word ish (man) which remains in the singular.

On the plain, or peshat level of meaning this makes no sense without this deeper understanding which resolves the tension in the grammatical incongruity of our text. Thus, in this new dual understanding, we let our physical bodies rest and rejuvenate, all the while letting our spiritual souls return to their Divine dimension, uniting with the holiness of the Sabbath.

Finally, we can read it on the deepest sod, or "secret" level,reading SVA as not "sova" or "sheva," but as SHaVuAh, meaning "oath." Thus it now becomes, "and you shall eat according to the oath." Oath? What oath? This means that just as parents take an oath to feed their child unconditionally, so too G*d will promise to feed us and nourish us if we return to a child-like state of openness to His magnificent bounty.

Of course, we should learn to grow up and take responsibility, but never at the price of losing our child-like sense of awe and wonderment about the world - and its Divine source. Chazon is the Hebrew word for "a vision." When the Torah says "each man shall return to (his) aChuZato (vs 10), it's hinting in the strongest sense possible that we should all return to our "original vision (chazon)."

This means that our holy task in life is to return to and try to attain once more that child-like vision. We should try very much to connect ourselves to the world as does a child- to see ourselves as both inseparable and connected to every other being on the planet. If we truly have a sense of merging with all life, then it would not be possible to ever oppress our neighbor; we would only be oppressing ourselves.

A child always believes in fairness. The adult cynically says,"that's life." But the Torah's utopian vision is that ALL is connected to the ULTIMATE ONENESS, that all is of and from G*d. There is none other. The baby knows best what heaven wants. After all, he just came from there.

Shabbat Shalom

© 2000 - 2011 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Sefer Chabibi Deepest Torah: BEHAR: Child Vision

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