Parashat Behar-Bechukotai

When was the last time you looked in to the mirror? Can you remember what you saw? What did you look like? Or have you forgotten already?

Ya’akov (James) 1: 222 – 24 says, “Don’t deceive yourselves by only hearing what the Word says, but do it! For whoever hears the Word but doesn’t do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror, who looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”

In Vayikra 25, HaShem spoke to Moshe, b’har, (On the Mount), and said “tell the people, when you enter the land I am giving you, the land itself is to observe a Shabbat rest for Adonai. Six years you are to sow your field: six years you prune your grapevines and gather their produce. But the seventh year is to be a Shabbat  of complete rest for the land, a Shabbat for Adonai; you will neither sow your field nor prune your grapevines.” This is called “The Shemittah Year.”

This parasha is perhaps one of the many proofs that the words which we read are the words of HaShem Himself. Now, I’m not an economist! (although my wife sometimes wishes I was), but who else could think of teaching like this, that defies all normal standards of economy and flows against the tide of human societies throughout the world. The parasha before us, although brief, contains some of the most sublime principles of human dignity, equality, and justice found anywhere. In this parasha, we learn of the Sabbatical Year, giving the land a rest while trusting G-d for a three year provision of food. We are taught about the Year of Jubilee, where debts were forgiven, slaves set free, and property returned to the parasha finishes by encouraging and legislating B’nei Yisra’el to help their fellow Israelites when they are found in poverty.


So far in the Torah we have seen the word Shabbat and other derivatives from its Hebrew roots over 25 times; its usage is not over yet! The Shabbat, the 7th day of the week, is to be a Shabbat of complete rest. A holy convocation; no work of any kind is to be done. It is G-d’s Shabbat.

  • No work is to be done…..
  • We are to meet for public worship…..
  • It is G-d’s Shabbat…..

In the verses quoted above, we see another example of Shabbat rest it teaches of a seven year cycle which HaShem calls Shabbat and we now call the Shemittah Year (Shn’at Shemmitah). This Shabbat here is not primarily to do with the people but with the land which ‘the L-rd’ gave B’nei Yisra’el. They are instructed to let the land rest every seventh year as a Shabbat for the L-rd. 25:2. Let’s look at some of the implications of this so-called Sabbatical rest.


The Shn’at Shemittah and the weekly Shabbat both share the same root letters of Shin, Beit and Tet. The main principle behind this root is that of rest, although other possible translations are ‘to cease’ and ‘to desist.’ The book of Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 4: 3 says “Now we who have believed (in Yeshua) enter that rest…. there remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of G-d; for anyone who enters G-d’s rest also rests from his own work just as G-d did from His.” In other words, our relationship with the Eternal One can be summed up in one phrase; a Shabbat rest! This rest can be entered into by faith in Yeshua’s shedding of blood. Farmers to this day give a field a rest every few years.


But the similarity between the two kinds of Shabbat goes beyond that of merely rest. A careful reading of Vayikra 23 reveals the fact that there is at least one Shabbat associated with each Mo’adim.  However none of these special Shabbat are ‘to the L-rd’ Only the seventh day Shabbat and the Shn’at Shemittah share this designation. In the case of the weekly Shabbat it was called the Lord’s because He rested on the seventh day after creation as we are told in B’reshit 1. Thus Shabbat was G-d’s idea from the beginning. He set the precedent. He established the pattern. He laid down the principle.

There is one other important point to do with Shn’at Shemittah. Yeshua said that Shabbat has certain benefits for man, if he observes it as unto the L-rd. The same would hold true for the Sabbatical Year. What benefit can the Sabbatical year have for us, besides losing weight? One obvious benefit for the farmers was that they get a whole year’s vacation!! They were not to sow, reap, nor prune for one year. In fact the same verse says it had to be a year of solemn rest, the same phraseology used to describe the rest in Yom Kippur. Another benefit it is to us is that the Sabbatical year affords to us an opportunity to see how much the L-rd can increase our faith. Some would no doubt ask, “But how would we eat”?   The answer is ‘Fear not’ G-d has this one covered, v21, HaShem says, “then I will order my blessing on you during the sixth year, so that the land brings forth enough produce for all three years.”   He also said they could eat whatever food that the land grew naturally. This may sound strange to us in the west, but in Isra’el this does happen.

In Mattityahu 6: 25 – 27,   “Therefore, I tell you, don’t worry about your life – what you will eat or drink; or about your body – what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds flying about! They neither plant nor harvest, nor do they gather food into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they are? Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to his life?”

Rabbi Hertz says, “In D’varim 31: 10….. and special measures were taken to acquaint the man and the woman, the children as well as the resident aliens, with the teachings and duties of Torah.”   Imagine, A whole year of studying the scriptures and teaching G-d’s word.

But it is really by our identification with the Torah that we receive real identity. It is the Torah also that gives us our freedom to walk in who we really are. The Yovel year reminds us of our calling back to G-d. Perhaps now we see what Ya’akov was saying in his letter to other Jewish believers in Messiah Yeshua. He encourages us to follow the Torah and says anyone who hears the Torah and walks away from it is and does not do what it says, is like someone looking into a mirror, walks away and forgets what he looks like. The Torah is actually a description of what the righteousness of G-d looks like on planet earth. We also know that we who are New creations in Messiah are the righteousness of G-d in Him. Therefore the Torah is said to be a mirror in which we can see what the new ‘me’ looks like.

The L-rd is exhorting us to follow His Torah, as Yeshua and all His talmidim did.  The Torah acts like a judge to us; it says, “Did you believe the Good News of the living Torah, Yeshua, and therefore live it out?”  Did you believe the mirror? Did you see and remember what you looked like, when you looked into the mirror of the living Torah, or forget and live like something other than what you really are – a new creation child of G-d.

Rabbi Boaz