Wednesday, May 25, 2011


These are the laws that God commanded Moses and Israel on Mount Sinai—

A well-known question that emerges from this opening sentence is found in Rashi who asks: Ma inyan shemittah etzel har Sinai? Why is Sinai referred to in the setting of the Sabbatical laws and the rules governing the Jubilee year? I spite of his answer that establishes the Sinaitic authority for all the laws of the Torah-that is, just as these laws were enunciated divinely, likewise all laws, in their general presentations and in their minutiae are to be considered as divine in origin, I prefer to find in this juxtaposition a different meaning and interpretation.

The first question to be raised is related to the content of these laws, their spiritual purpose. The injunction to allow the land to lie fallow each seventh year and the wider embrace of release in the Jubilee year, namely the release of slaves and the remission of all debts, suggest the overriding principle that in the realm of human affairs absolute ownership of goods and property is a fiction; we are only temporary owners of what we have whether it be land or indentured servants. The earth is the Lord’s and at best our possessions are objects of lease. Ultimately, even our lives do not belong to us. In other words life is impermanent and temporary.

The question remains: does anything survive death and the passage of time? Is there not something that somehow lasts, that out lives the cycles of time? Fields return, debts are cancelled; even belongings are worth only the period of their lease, not the intrinsic value of the object itself.

What about the soul, the higher self, the spirit, the image of God, the divine refraction embedded in the human personality? Does that not belong to us eternally?

Our tradition maintains quite firmly that such a reality is spiritually unmistakable. Thus the text places the reality of impermanence in the setting of that which represents the transcendent, the godly, the moment of a shofar’s sound that only grows louder and stronger-Mount Sinai, a moment of eternity.

Things are shared; they perish. The individual human spirit somehow always occupies a mountain top. Sinai is the symbol of the eternity and indestructibility of the human soul; of a uniqueness that is shaped out of the lives of ordinary human beings who leave behind a legacy of their spirits to others.


If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My shall eat your fill of bread and dwell securely in your land.”(Lev.26:3-5)

This segment of the Torah ostensibly contains one of the most obvious expressions of the doctrine of reward and punishment in Judaism.The modern mind is skeptical about the accuracy of this doctrine if understood literally. How do we resolve the dilemma of the righteous suffering and those who don't follow God's laws, prospering? Some gain clarity from the view of faith and the assumption that all outcomes are unknown by the mortal mind .Others see this as a collective assurance that when a community lives morally it will prosper even though some individuals may be subject to suffering in the process. Or we can understand these passages as reflecting an historic time when Israel was in its childhood and like children they needed this type of conditional reasoning and understanding in order to withstand the possibilities of straying from God's path.

From a spiritual-psychological point of view I offer another way of understanding this passage.Security comes from within.The Torah suggests that if we have the capacity to “eat our bread” -לשבע- to our fill, with an ability to feel grateful for what we have, this grateful heart will result in the feeling of dwelling securely in the peacefulness and fullness of mind and heart pulsating with thankfulness for out gift of food. Gratitude engenders faith and the assurance that one can dwell securely and safely without fears of not having and without feelings of debilitating insecurity and anxiety about the future.Sensing deeply the gift of all of life, we can take the strength and faith of living our lives anchored in a trust in the world's goodness and the compassion of a God whose gifts we are bidden to enjoy.

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