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Feeding on Faithfulness


Torah Portion: Parashat Behar-Bechukotai..

Shabbat: May 13, 2023 / Iyyar 22, 5783

Torah: Behar - Lev. 25:1-26:2 Bechukotai - Lev. 26:3-27:34


Paul’s prayer in Colossians

“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and long suffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins”. Colossians 1:9-14


In this week's Torah portion (Behar) we learn that God commanded the Jews not to work the fields during the Sabbatical year. Once every seven years the land was to lie fallow and not be seeded or harvested (Lev. 25:4). This "Sabbath for the land" was called Shenat Ha-Shemittah (שְׁנַת הַשְּׁמִטָּה), or the "Shemittah year." It is further called a "Sabbath for the LORD" (שַׁבָּת לַיהוה). Any produce of the field or trees that grow during the Shemittah could not be sold and were simply free for the taking, and any private loans were canceled as well. As you might imagine, in an agricultural economy the observance of the shemittah year presented a real test of faith, since it required complete trust (emunah shelemah) that the LORD would provide despite "letting go" of the usual means of doing business... In response to the natural question, "What will we eat in the seventh year?" (Lev. 25:20), the LORD promised to regularly bless the preceding harvest to last for three years - the sixth, the seventh (shemittah), and the eighth - because planting was not permitted in the shemittah year (Lev. 25:21).

The sages note that the underlying blessing from heaven is actually the gift of contentment (שְׂבִיעוּת רָצוֹן), or being completely satisfied with little. Rashi stated that the preceding promise, "you will eat to be satisfied" (Lev. 25:19) meant that "in your intestines there will be a blessing." This idea is repeated parashat Bechukotai when the blessings of obedience are described (Lev. 26:5). The blessing to be satisfied - to be free of inner craving, to be unconstrained by lust, hunger, etc. - is considered a greater miracle than even the threefold provision of harvest promised for observing shemittah. Indeed, it is often the sign of a curse to be well-off, since the rich tend to forget God and vainly believe that their own efforts bring them blessing (see Deut. 8:17). As David wrote, "Let their table be a snare for them..." (Psalm 69:22; Rom. 11:9).

When we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, "all these things" will be added to us (Matt. 6:25-33). Those who have faith and do not question whether God will provide for them are thereby enabled to receive miraculous provision from God. Moses lived 40 days and nights on Sinai without food because he trusted that God would meet his needs (Exod. 24:18). Likewise, the wilderness generation never worried about shoes and clothing, and therefore these things never wore out (Deut. 8:4; 29:4). On the other hand, the manna that fell from heaven might have been given as a concession to human frailty, since Israel would have miraculously survived without food just as Moses had on the mountain as they made the journey from Sinai to Zion. According to midrash, the manna itself tasted either satisfying or repulsive based on the attitude and faith of each person. For those who believed in the goodness of God, the manna tasted delectable; for those who mistrusted God, it tasted like gravel in the mouth.

Ultimately it may be said that God satisfies us based on our desire or will. As Yeshua said, "According to your faith be it done for you" (Matt. 8:13, 9:29). "Let it be as you have trusted." This idea is also expressed by King David in the Psalms:

"You open your hand and satisfy

the desire of every living thing." (Psalm 145:16)

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