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One of the main themes of the Parasha is freedom:
The land shall rest: it is a Sabbath for G-d (25:2) - for one year out of every seven
You shall return each person to his ancestral heritage, and each person to his family (25:10) - in the Jubilee year, at the end of the fifty year cycle. My father points out that this gives a fresh start - after the entanglements over lands and other real property that inevitably build up over half a century.
No land may be sold in perpetuity for the land is Mine; for you are sojourners and residents with me (25:28)
If you brother becomes impoverished… you shall support him… so that he can live with you (25:35)… he shall be as a hired worker or resident (25:40)
If (your brother) is sold to a sojourner who lives with you… one of his brothers shall pay for his redemption… the price of his redemption shall be divided by the number of years… until the Jubilee year (25:47-51)
However, the Parasha ends up with something very different:
You shall not make idols for yourself… for I am the Lord your G-d. You shall observe My Sabbaths and revere My Sanctuary; I am G-d (26:1-2).
What is the connection between the theme of freedom on one hand, and the prohibition against idolatry, the observance of the Sabbath, and appropriate conduct in the Temple on the other hand?
The Maggid of Dubno gives the following parable. A leaf was well sustained by the tree. It was exposed to sunlight. It was regularly supplied through the roots with nutrients and water. It was a perfect specimen of plant health. Yet it yearned to grow up, leave the tree, and start a life of freedom by itself.
The tree gave the leaf its wish and let the leaf go. At first, it enjoyed riding on a current of air and hovering over places, free from the tree. But then it 'got hungry' started to yellow, and finally wither up.
Similarly here. All the freedoms in the Parasha are for the good of society. But they place demands on people - their faith, and their being prepared to 'go without' in certain circumstances. Yet the Torah declares they work - even to the extent that G-d declares that He will 'command His Blessing' (25:21) that there will be enough food to go round in the Sabbatical year. These mitzvot will sustain the Israelites, just like the tree sustains the leaves. The Torah declares that fulfilling these commandments is the way to maximize freedom of the people.
But there is no short cut. That is what the Torah means by keeping to the 'tree of life' - observing the Sabbaths and revering the Sanctuary. Thus the Parasha ends with the following message. If the Israelites leave the 'tree of life' and 'attach themselves' to the 'freedom' of idolatry' they will wither, as the leaf…
As the Ethics of the Fathers puts it: 'There is no freedom except in Torah' (Ethics 6:2)
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: email@example.com for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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