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Parashat Behar-Bechukotai: Relating To Time


Parashat Behar-Bechukotai

I stare at the face in the mirror and then I look at a picture of myself at school, I am struck by the question, “Where has the time gone?”Parshat Behar Bechukotai

Judaism loves to count. We count the days of the week. The months of the year. The years themselves. We even have mitzvot related to counting. But what is the purpose of the counting? How does the counting help me come to terms with the white hairs and receding hairline? Let’s investigate counting time.

Parashat Behar Summary:

  1. Laws of Shmittah- the Sabbatical year
  2. The laws of Yovel- the Jubilee 50th year
  3. Laws of debts and loans
  4. Prohibition to take interest

Parasha Bechokotai Summary 

  1. The Covenant at Sinai
  2. The Tochacha- The reward for keeping the commandments and the curses for breaking them.
  3. Laws of Arachin- gifts to the Temple.

Behar-Bechukotai Shmitta and Yovel


This week’s parashah of Behar-Bechukotai presents us with the unique laws of Shmitta and Yovel. Shmitta is the Sabbatical year. For six years the farmer can work his field, but the seventh year the land lays fallow. In the same way, as we work for six days and rest on Shabbat so too the farmer.

There is a new law that is introduced in this week’s Parasha, Yovel- the Jubilee. In the 50th year, the Shofar was sounded and all land was returned to the original landowners. It was a unique law of ancient Israel. All debts were canceled and the economy hit the symbolic reset button.

The idea of counting days is also mentioned in Parashat Emor, that we read last week. There we saw the Mitzvah of counting 49 days from the second day of Pesach. On the 50th day, we have the holiday of Shavuot.

Two Countings

behar bechukotai dvar torah

There are two types of counting that we find. The first count is the one we do weekly. In Hebrew, there is no name for the days of the week. They are called Yom Rishon, Yom Sheini the first day or the second day of the week. When Shabbat arrives these days are forgotten.

If one reads letters in the responsa literature, we find the name of the week based on the Parasha, for example, the 5th day of the week of Parashat Behar Bechukotai. The day itself has no significance relative to Shabbat.

On the other hand, we have the counting of the Omer, the Shmitta, and the Yovel. With each of them, a declaration is made. Today is the 34th day of the Omer making it 4 weeks and 6 days of the Omer count. In this count each day, as a unit of time is important. The days are rungs that we climb daily until we reach the destination of the 50th day – Shavuot or 50th year -Jubilee.

Life Is Made Up Of Days, Months and Years

behar bechukotai

If one thinks about one’s life, our lives comprise of years, months, weeks, and days. Most of the time when we phone a friend, and they ask how we are doing? We will respond that we are so busy. When we are asked to describe what it is that we have been doing to fill the days we struggle. I know that I do. Especially in the current situation of lockdown. The days and weeks fly by and when we ask what have we done? We struggle. The days are lost in the weeks and the weeks in the months.

How To Make The Days Count?

Daf yomi
Studying Daf Yomi in Yeshiva Chacei Lublin where Rabbi Meir Shapiro introduced the concept of Daf Yomi

One of the most powerful programs that I participate in, is Daf Yomi– the daily study of the Talmud. Each day I have to complete a set amount of Talmud. This means that when I look back over the month I can say I have read from page x to page y. I can see what I have done with my time and what I have produced.

The same is true when we read a book. One can see the tangible result of our time. When I read Facebook content, I am engrossed but when I look back and ask myself what have I to show for my time? I have nothing.

Time does not standstill. The question we have is how to make the time memorable and make it count?

The Psalm Of The Day

Psalm of the day

One of the beautiful traditions in the Siddur is the Psalm of the day. At the end of the daily sacrifice, the Levi choir would sing a Psalm. Each day had its unique Psalm, with its own tune. It was a highlight of the daily service in the Temple. 

We do not have the Temple. But we still say the Psalm of the day. The challenge that we face and that the Torah has been hinting to over the past two Shabbatot is how do we treat time? Like a river that flows and no matter how much you splash, it has no effect. Or is time a ladder that we progress and move, ever so slowly to reach our final destination. Each day has value and each day is valued.

The question that Parashat Behar Bechukotai is asking is, “What is your relationship with time?”

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