Behar begins with the laws of Shemitah, the Sabbatical year, where the Jewish people are commanded not to plant their fields or tend to them in the seventh year. Every 50th year is the Yovel, the Jubilee year, where agricultural activity is also proscribed.
These two commandments fall into one of the seven categories of evidence that God gave the Torah. If the idea is to give the land a rest, then do not plant one-seventh of the land each year. To command an agrarian society to completely stop cultivating every 7th year one has to be either God or a meshugenah (crazy).
Also included in this portion: redeeming land which was sold, to strengthen your fellow Jew when his economic means are faltering, not to lend to your fellow Jew with interest, the laws of indentured servants. The portion ends with the admonition to not make idols, to observe the Shabbat and to revere the Sanctuary.
The second portion for this week, Bechukosai, begins with the multitude of blessings you will receive for keeping the commandments of the Torah. (Truly worth reading!) It also contains the Tochachah, words of admonition, “If you will not listen to Me and will not perform all of these commandments…” There are seven series of seven punishments each. Understand that God does not punish for punishment’s sake; He wants to get our attention so that we will introspect, recognize our errors and correct our ways. God does not wish to destroy us or annul His covenant with us. He wants us to know that there are consequences for our every action; He also wants to get our attention so that we do not stray so far away that we assimilate and disappear as a nation. I highly recommend reading Lev. 26:14 – 45 and Deut. 28.
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
“Your money you shall not give him for interest” (Leviticus 25:37).
Why does the Torah forbid lending money for interest?
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, former Rosh Hayeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva, explains: The Torah wants to train us to do acts of kindness for others without any gain at all. Not only is it forbidden to receive money for lending money, but the person who borrowed the money is not allowed to do any special favors for the person who lent him the money. When you lend someone money, you are doing so only because you want to help this person and you know that you will not be receiving anything material in return.
There is a strong tendency for people to keep asking, “What’s in this for me?” When they do not see any personal profit or benefit in what they are doing, they are not frequently motivated to take action. The Torah ideal, however, is that we should develop the attribute of helping others for no ulterior motive. Do kindness for the sake of the kindness itself. This is the Torah’s lesson in the commandment to lend others money without any form of personal gain.