Community Rabbi Corner, May 15, 2020

Rabbi Menashe East
Mt. Freedom Jewish Center
Randolph, NJ
Parashat Behar-Bechukotai

This week’s double Torah portion, Behar-Bechukotai, Leviticus 25-27, are the final portions of the 3rd book of the Torah. The portion addresses a scenario "when your brother is impoverished..." and because of their financial hardships, the family sells their ancestral land. This is a story about a family in desperate straits. Their lives have been upended, and in their desperation they put themselves in a vulnerable position.

The Torah's language - "when" - speaks to the inevitability of facing crisis.   In the final book of the Torah, when addressing the mitzvah of tzedakah, the Torah first declares: "there will be no one impoverished among you..." And then in the opening of the very next section: "When there is an impoverished person among you." Which is it? No one will be poor? Or people will be poor?

Perhaps the Torah is speaking to the ideal of a world where none are wanting. But in the real world, in our world, in this, we all face impoverishment - financial, physical, spiritual, relational... 

A clear-eyed, realistic assessment of our lived experience is the first step. When that reality is presented and the depth of crisis is understood, the impoverished person can find a redeemer and an uprooted life can return to its soil. 

Shabbat Shalom.