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Jessica Hawker - Dvar Torah

Parsha B’Har May 9th 2015

In my Parsha, God gives Moses the laws of the Sabbatical year – called a shmita – where every seventh year, all work ceases on the land, and all its produce becomes free for everyone, man and beast. The land is not owned by man; it belongs to God, we just borrow it.

Seven Sabbatical cycles are followed by a fiftieth year – the Jubilee year, where again, all work on the land ceases. Also, all indentured servants – which were normally Hebrew slaves who had been sold themselves into slavery because of debit – were set free, and all agricultural lands that had been sold in the previous 50 years went back to the original owners.

I love the idea of a Jubilee year because it stops people getting poorer and poorer and if they can’t help themselves getting into more and more debt by the return of their houses and lands after 50 years. So the lesson I learnt here was that helping people close to you was regarded as important – in fact the Parsha

Says “He still remains your brother and is to be treated in a brotherly and considerate manner “. In the end, the Jubilee year rescues them anyway.

The one thing which really stuck out for me in my Parashah was the bit on slavery. God advises us to treat our family or other Jewish people who have sold themselves into slavery (because of debt ), like a hired labourer and to let them live by our side. That is awesome and I love that, but I wonder why the

Torah doesn’t tell us to abolish slavery completely ??

Unfortunately, slavery still happens to this day and I found this story on the internet about a woman called Jana who moved to Slovenia and after a job interview was kidnapped, beaten and raped before being made dependant on heroin. Fortunately she was somehow able to escape and now has become an important international advocate against human trafficking.

It seems as though Maimonides came up with an answer about why the Torah instructs us about slavery - almost approving of it. He has suggested that in those days – 3 000 years ago – slavery was regarded as a normal part of life and if we were told to abolish it completely, it would never have happened . So at least my Parsha tells us of a

Watered down version of slavery which may have been the stepping stone to getting rid of it


Finally, B’har also contains laws controlling the Sale of lands and how when people come under Slavery we should help them. The lesson I learnt From this part of my Parashah is that, we should help our family and friends with loans which are free o interest and it is our duty to support our Fellowman and see that he does not die of Starvation. All of this gives me hope in a world where we think of material things and want to profit at the expense of our neighbour. It is an important lesson in the modern world that giving and caring will make it a better place for us all.


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