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May 10, 1996 - Image 30

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-05-10

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End u


The Sabbatical Year:
Hope For Redemption

Shabbat Behar-Bechukotai:
Leviticus 25:1 - 27:3; Jeremiah 16:19 - 17:14.



The 12th Annual
Village Antiques
Show & Sale

Lovett Hall
Henry Ford Museum

May 10•llam - 9pm
May 11 • llam - 7pm
May 12 11 am - 5pm

This year, 40 top exhibitors from
across the United States offer a
stunning variety of treasures, from
early American glass to European and
American Paintings, even less formal
period antiques. Lectures will be
given Friday and Saturday. Tickets
are just $7 per person,
$6 for seniors. For more HENRY
F 0 R I)
information, call
M U.' UM
(313) 271-1620, ext. 301.





his week's Torah portion
brings us another double
header, Behar (And the
Lord spoke to Moses on
Mount Sinai) and Bechukotai (If
you walk in my statutes).
Behar deals with two issues
that resonate in our own day:
Ecology and poverty. The concept
of the sabbatical year, in which
the land is allowed to rest, fits
very neatly into modern concerns
about the depletion of soil con-
tinuously farmed and minimally
replenished with commercial fer-
tilizers of limited nutritional val-
Recent studies have indicated
that the mineral content of our
food has been severely jeopar-
dized by this practice. Since min-
erals are the primary source of
flavor in our foods, it is not our
imagination that everything
seemed to taste better when we
were younger. (My friend, Taya
Akkerman, once lamented to me
that the raspberries she buys in
America have hardly any flavor
compared to the ones she used to
buy in the Ukraine. I didn't dare
ask her to compare the taste of

Thus the injunction to allow
the land to rest one year in sev-
en is not merely some biblical ide-
al appropriate only in ancient
times, but one that calls us to ac-
count in our own day for the way
in which we abuse God's land. In
order to increase the quantitative
yield of the earth, we are strip-
ping away the quality from that
which we produce. We pay for our
foolishness and greed with di-
minished physical energy, de-
creased mental clarity, and a
variety of nutritionally related
This pattern of sabbatical
years reaches its culmination
every 50 years with the celebra-
tion of the Jubilee year. "And you
shall hallow the 50 year. You
shall proclaim release through-
out the land for all its inhabi-
tants." Leviticus 25:10. (The more
commonly known translation is
found on the Liberty Bell: "Pro-
claim liberty throughout the land
and to all the inhabitants there-




Marjorie S. Saulson is on the
Board of Overseers of the
Rabbinical School of the
Jewish Theological Seminary
and is a national vice president
of Women's League for
Conservative Judaism.

While many modern scholars
believe that the Jubilee year was
not celebrated in practice, since
it would entail allowing the land
to lie fallow two years in a row,
creating great hardship, the most
intriguing provision of the Jubilee
year is the reversion of property
to its original owners and the
freeing of Hebrews held in
There are four levels of im-
poverishment recounted in this
Torah portion; and in each level,
there is a mechanism for revers-
ing the slide into poverty. If a per-
son needs to sell his land, only the
crops for the number of years un-
til the Jubilee year may be sold.
During the Jubilee year, the land
reverts to the original owner.
"And the land shall not be sold in
perpetuity; for the land is Mine;
for you are strangers and settlers
with me." Leviticus 25:23.

Should a person lose all his

land and become indebted to an-
other Israelite, he is to be treat-
ed as a kinsman and not charged
interest for the food or money he
borrows. Further, if the person
must indenture himself, he is not
to be treated as a slave, but
rather as a hired person; and he
is to be freed during the Jubilee
year. Lastly, if an Israelite be-
comes the slave of a non-Israelite,
his redemption from slavery be- c_\
comes a matter of the highest pri-


The concept of God's owner-
ship of the land and our serving
as the stewards thereof has found
its expression in our recent his-
tory in the idea proposed to the
Zionist Congress in 1897 by Pro-
fessor Herman Schapira, that a

Jewish National Fund be creat-
ed to purchase land in Palestine.
This land was to be made avail-

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