This Sabbath we have a double Torah reading, based on the Hebrew calendar. Behar means in the mountain, and ‘bechu’kotai translates as ‘in my statutes.’ These chapters will conclude our reading from the book of Leviticus. The first ‘sedrah’ begins with a description of the sabbatical year, and the importance of protecting the land and recognizing that God is the ultimate source of harvest and success from the land. This chapter also speaks about the jubilee year, and the provisions for sustaining the community in the 50th year, as the land lies fallow. Various economic provisions were instituted so that farmers and lenders would not go bankrupt when the sabbatical year was observe.
In the second Torah parashah, we learn of the promises that God makes to the people if they strenuously observe the commandments given to them in the Exodus stories. They will be secure and sustained, and their enemies will fall before them. But if the Israelites do not observe the mitzvot, calamities and terrible consequences will befall the people. Thus the question for us as moderns becomes: in what manner do we observe the commandments, and how do we choose to follow some mitzvot and avoid others?