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Behar, BeHar, Be-har, or B’har (בהר — Hebrew for "on the mount,” the fifth word, and the first distinctive word, in the parshah) is the 32nd weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the ninth in the book of Leviticus. It constitutes Jews in the Diaspora generally read it in May.
The lunisolar Hebrew calendar has a leap year every two or three years, in which an extra month is added to the calendar. In leap years (for example, 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2016), parshah Behar is read separately on the 32nd Sabbath of the annual cycle (which begins on Simchat Torah). In non-leap years (for example, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2015), parshah Behar is combined with the subsequent parshah, Bechukotai, to ensure that the sequence of readings is completed by Simchat Torah.
A Sabbatical year for the land
On Mount Sinai, God told Moses to tell the Israelites the law of the Sabbatical year for the land. ( ) The people could work the fields for six years, but in the seventh year the land was to have a Sabbath of complete rest during which the people were not to sow their fields, prune their vineyards, or reap the aftergrowth. ( ) They could, however, eat whatever the land produced on its own. ( )
The people were further to hallow the 50th year, the Jubilee year, and to proclaim release for all with a blast on the horn. ( ) Each Israelite was to return to his family and his ancestral land holding. ( ) In selling or buying property, the people were to charge only for the remaining number of crop years until the jubilee, when the land would be returned to its ancestral holder. ( )
God promised to bless the people in the sixth year, so that the land would yield a crop sufficient for three years. () God prohibited selling the land beyond reclaim, for God owned the land, and the people were but strangers living with God. ( )
If one fell into straits and had to sell land, his nearest relative was to redeem what was sold. () If one had no one to redeem, but prospered and acquired enough wealth, he could refund the pro rata share of the sales price for the remaining years until the jubilee, and return to his holding. ( )
If one sold a house in a walled city, one could redeem it for a year, and thereafter the house would pass to the purchaser beyond reclaim and not be released in the jubilee. ( ) But houses in villages without encircling walls were treated as open country subject to redemption and release through the jubilee. ( ) Levites were to have a permanent right of redemption for houses and property in the cities of the Levites. ( ) The unenclosed land about their cities could not be sold. ( )
Limits on debt servitude
If a kinsman fell into straits and came under one’s authority by virtue of his debts, one was to let him live by one’s side as a kinsman and not exact from him interest. ( ) Israelites were not to lend money to countrymen at interest. ( ) If the kinsman continued in straits and had to give himself over to a creditor for debt, the creditor was not to subject him to the treatment of a slave, but to treat him as a hired or bound laborer until the jubilee year, at which time he was to be freed to go back to his family and ancestral holding. ( ) Israelites were not to rule over such debtor Israelites ruthlessly. ( ) Israelites could, however, buy and own as inheritable property slaves from other nations. ( )
If an Israelite fell into straits and came under a resident alien’s authority by virtue of his debts, the Israelite debtor was to have the right of redemption. () A relative was to redeem him or, if he prospered, he could redeem himself by paying the pro rata share of the sales price for the remaining years until the jubilee. ( )
In classical rabbinic interpretation
Leviticus chapter 25
Leviticus 25:1–34 — a Sabbatical year for the land
Tractate Sheviit in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Jerusalem Talmud interpreted the laws of the Sabbatical year in and and 31:10–13. (Mishnah Sheviit 1:1–10:9; Tosefta Sheviit 1:1–8:11; Jerusalem Talmud Sheviit 1a–87b.)
Rabbi Isaac taught that the words of Leviticus Rabbah 1:1.)“mighty in strength that fulfill His word,” speak of those who observe the Sabbatical year. Rabbi Isaac said that we often find that a person fulfills a precept for a day, a week, or a month, but it is remarkable to find one who does so for an entire year. Rabbi Isaac asked whether one could find a mightier person than one who sees his field untilled, see his vineyard untilled, and yet pays his taxes and does not complain. And Rabbi Isaac noted that uses the words “that fulfill His word (dabar),” and says regarding observance of the Sabbatical year, “And this is the manner (dabar) of the release,” and argued that “dabar” means the observance of the Sabbatical year in both places. (
The latter parts of tractate Arakhin in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of the jubilee year in (Mishnah Arakhin 7:1–9:8; Tosefta Arakhin 5:1–19; Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 24a–34a.)
The Mishnah taught that the jubilee year had the same ritual as Rosh Hashanah for blowing the shofar and for blessings. But Rabbi Judah said that on Rosh Hashanah, the blast was made with a ram’s horn shofar, while on jubilee the blast was made with an antelope’s (or some say a goat’s) horn shofar. (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 3:5; Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashanah 26b.)
The Mishnah taught that exile resulted from (among other things) transgressing the commandment (inand ) to observe a Sabbatical year for the land. (Mishnah Avot 5:9.)
A midrash interpreted the words “it shall be a jubilee unto you” in to teach that God gave the year of release and the jubilee to the Israelites alone, and not to other nations. And similarly, the midrash interpreted the words “To give you the land of Canaan” in to teach that God gave the Land of Israel to the Israelites alone. (Exodus Rabbah 25:23.)
At a feast, Rabbi served his disciples tender and tough cuts of beef tongue. When his disciples chose the tender over the tough, Rabbi instructed them so to let their tongues be tender to one another. Rabbi taught that this was the meaning of when Moses admonished: “And if you sell anything . . . you shall not wrong one another.” (Leviticus Rabbah 33:1.) Similarly, a midrash concluded that these words of taught that anyone who wrongs a neighbor with words will be punished according to Scripture. (Leviticus Rabbah 33:5.)
In a Baraita, the Rabbis interpreted the words “you shall not wrong one another” in to prohibit verbal wrongs, as had already addressed monetary wrongs. The Baraita cited as examples of verbal wrongs: (1) reminding penitents of their former deeds, (2) reminding converts’ children of their ancestors’ deeds, (3) questioning the propriety of converts’ coming to study Torah, (4) speaking to those visited by suffering as Job’s companions spoke to him in and (5) directing donkey drivers seeking grain to a person whom one knows has never sold grain. The Gemara said that Scripture uses the words “and you shall fear your God” (as in ) concerning cases where intent matters, cases that are known only to the heart. Rabbi Johanan said on the authority of Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai that verbal wrongs are more heinous than monetary wrongs, because of verbal wrongs it is written (in ), “and you shall fear your God,” but not of monetary wrongs (in ). Rabbi Eleazar said that verbal wrongs affect the victim's person, while monetary wrongs affect only the victim's money. Rabbi Samuel bar Nahmani said that while restoration is possible in cases of monetary wrongs, it is not in cases of verbal wrongs. And a Tanna taught before Rav Nahman bar Isaac that one who publicly makes a neighbor blanch from shame is as one who sheds blood. Whereupon Rav Nahman remarked how he had seen the blood rush from a person’s face upon such shaming. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Metzia 58b.)
Rabbi Phinehas in the name of Rabbi Reuben interpreted the words “If your brother grows poor . . . then shall his kinsman . . . redeem” in Rav Nahman taught that exhorts Israel to acts of charity, because fortune revolves like a wheel in the world, sometimes leaving one poor and sometimes well off. (Leviticus Rabbah 34:3.) And similarly, Rabbi Tanhum son of Rabbi Hiyya taught that exhorts Israel to acts of charity, because God made the poor as well as the rich, so that they might benefit each other; the rich one benefiting the poor one with charity, and the poor one benefiting the rich one by affording the rich one the opportunity to do good. Bearing this in mind, when Rabbi Tanhum’s mother went to buy him a pound of meat, she would buy him two pounds, one for him and one for the poor. (Leviticus Rabbah 34:5.)to exhort Israel to acts of charity. Rabbi Phinehas taught that God will reward with life anyone who gives a coin to a poor person, for the donor could be giving not just a coin, but life. Rabbi Phinehas explained that if a loaf costs ten coins, and a poor person has but nine, then the gift of a single coin allows the poor person to buy the loaf, eat, and become refreshed. Thus, Rabbi Phinehas taught, when illness strikes the donor, and the donor’s soul presses to leave the donor’s body, God will return the gift of life. (Leviticus Rabbah 34:2.) Similarly,
The Gemara employed Rab Hisda thus interpreted the word yamim in to mean “a year.” says, “And her brother and her mother said: ‘Let the maiden abide with us yamim, at the least ten.” The Gemara reasoned that if yamim in means “days” and thus to imply “two days” (as the plural implies more than one), then would report Rebekah’s brother and mother suggesting that she stay first two days, and then when Eliezer said that that was too long, nonsensically suggesting ten days. The Gemara thus deduced that yamim must mean “a year” in as implies when it says, “if a man sells a house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; for a full year (yamim) shall he have the right of redemption.” Thus might mean, “Let the maiden abide with us a year, or at the least ten months.” The Gemara then suggested that yamim might mean “a month,” as suggests when it uses the phrase “a month of days (yamim).” The Gemara concluded, however, that yamim means “a month” only when the term “month” is specifically mentioned, but otherwise means either “days” (at least two) or “a year.” (Babylonian Talmud Ketubot 57b.)to deduce that the term yamim (literally “days”) sometimes means “a year,” and
Leviticus 25:35–55 — limits on debt servitude
In the words, “Take no interest or increase, but fear your God,” in Adam. The midrash taught that one who exacts interest from an Israelite thus has no fear of God. (Exodus Rabbah 31:13.)“interest” (neshech) literally means “bite.” A midrash played on this meaning, teaching not to take interest from the poor person, not to bite the poor person as the serpent — cunning to do evil — bit
Rav Nahman bar Isaac (explaining the position of Rabbi Eleazar) interpreted the words “that your brother may live with you” in to teach that one who has exacted interest should return it to the borrower, so that the borrower could survive economically. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Metzia 61b–62a.)
A Baraita considered the case where two people were traveling on a journey, and one had a container of water; if both drank, they would both die, but if only one drank, then that one might reach civilization and survive. Ben Patura taught that it is better that both should drink and die, rather than that only one should drink and see the other die. But Rabbi Akiba interpreted the words “that your brother may live with you” in to teach that concern for one’s own life takes precedence over concern for another’s. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Metzia 62a.)
Abaye said that because the law (in and elsewhere) required the master to treat a Hebrew slave well — and as an equal in food, drink, and sleeping accommodations — it was said that buying a Hebrew slave was like buying a master. (Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin 20a.)
Rabbi Levi interpretedto teach that God claimed Israel as God’s own possession when God said, “To Me the children of Israel are servants.” (Exodus Rabbah 30:1; see also Exodus Rabbah 33:5.)
- Not to work the land during the seventh year ( )
- Not to work with trees to produce fruit during that year ( )
- Not to reap crops that grow wild that year in the normal manner ( )
- Not to gather grapes which grow wild that year in the normal way ( )
- The Sanhedrin must count seven groups of seven years. ( )
- To blow the shofar on the tenth of Tishrei to free the slaves ( )
- The Sanhedrin must sanctify the 50th year. ( )
- Not to work the soil during the 50th year ( )
- Not to reap in the normal manner that which grows wild in the fiftieth year ( )
- Not to pick grapes which grew wild in the normal manner in the fiftieth year ( )
- To buy and sell according to Torah law ( )
- Not to overcharge or underpay for an article ( )
- Not to insult or harm anybody with words ( )
- Not to sell the land in Israel indefinitely ( )
- To carry out the laws of sold family properties ( )
- To carry out the laws of houses in walled cities ( )
- Not to sell the fields but they shall remain the Levites' before and after the Jubilee year ( )
- Not to lend with interest ( )
- Not to have a Hebrew servant do menial slave labor ( )
- Not to sell a Hebrew servant as a slave is sold ( )
- Not to work a Hebrew servant oppressively ( )
- Canaanite slaves must be kept forever ( )
- Not to allow a non-Jew to work a Hebrew servant oppressively ( )
- Not to bow down on smooth stone ( )
(Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 3:363–461. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1984. ISBN 0-87306-297-3.)
When parshah Behar is combined with parshah Behukotai, the haftarah is the haftarah for Behukotai,
The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:
- Exodus 21:1–11 (slavery); 23:10–11 (Sabbatical year)
- (Sabbatical year).
- Deuteronomy 15:1–6 (Sabbatical year); 15:12–18 (Sabbatical year); 31:10–13 (Sabbatical year).
- 2 Kings 4:1–7 (slavery).
- Isaiah 61:1–2 (proclaim release).
- Jeremiah 32:6–15 (next of kin redeemer); 34:6–27 (releasing Hebrew slaves).
- Ezekiel 7:12-13, 19 (economic equalization); 46:17 (year of release).
- Amos 2:6 (slavery).
- Psalms 4:9 (dwell in safety); 15:5 (lending); 37:26 (lending); 119:19 (sojourner on earth).
- Nehemiah 5:1–13 (slavery).
- 2 Chronicles 36:20–21 (Sabbatical year).
- Mishnah: Sheviit 1:1–10:9; Rosh Hashanah 3:5; Ketubot 9:9; Nedarim 9:4; Kiddushin 1:2–3; Bava Metzia 5:1–11; Sanhedrin 3:4; Makkot 3:9; Avot 5:9; Bekhorot 9:10; Arakhin 7:1–9:8. Land of Israel, circa 200 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 68–93, 304, 424, 487, 544, 588, 618, 687, 807, 821–24. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
- Sifra 245:1–259:2. Land of Israel, 4th Century C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Sifra: An Analytical Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 3:291–344. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988. ISBN 1-55540-207-0.
- Jerusalem Talmud: Peah 67a; Sheviit 1a–87b; Maasrot 31b, 42b; Orlah 8a. Land of Israel, circa 400 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, vols. 3, 6a–b, 9, 12. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2006–2009.
- Mekhilta According to Rabbi Ishmael 1:2. Land of Israel, late 4th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Mekhilta According to Rabbi Ishmael. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 1:6. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988. ISBN 1-55540-237-2.
- Leviticus Rabbah 1:1; 2:2; 7:6; 29:11; 33:1–34:16. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Leviticus. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, 4:2, 21, 98, 378, 418–45. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
- Babylonian Talmud: Berakhot 12b, 36b, 47b; Shabbat 33a, 96b, 131b; Pesachim 51b, 52b; Yoma 65b; Sukkah 3a, 39a, 40a–b; Beitzah 34b, 37b; Rosh Hashanah 2a, 6b, 8b–9b, 13a, 24a, 26a, 27b, 30a, 33b–34a; Taanit 6b, 19b; Megillah 3b, 5b, 10b, 22b, 23b; Moed Katan 2a–4a, 13a; Chagigah 3b; Yevamot 46a, 47a, 78b, 83a; Ketubot 43a–b, 57b, 84a, 110b; Nedarim 42a, 58b, 61a; Nazir 5a, 61b; Sotah 3b; Gittin 25a, 36a–39a, 44b, 47a, 48b, 65a, 74b; Kiddushin 2b, 8a, 9a, 14b–17b, 20a–22b, 26a, 33b, 38b, 40b, 53a, 58a, 67b; Bava Kamma 28a, 62b, 69a–b, 82b, 87a, 101a–02a, 103a, 112a, 113a–b, 116b, 117b; Bava Metzia 10a, 12a, 30b, 47b, 51a, 56b, 57b, 58b, 59b, 60b–61b, 65a, 71a, 73b, 75b, 79a, 82a, 88b, 106a, 109a, 114a; Bava Batra 10a, 80b, 91b, 102b, 110b, 112a, 137a, 139a; Sanhedrin 10b, 12a, 15a, 24b, 26a, 39a, 65b, 86a, 101b, 106b; Makkot 3b, 8a–b, 11b–12a, 13a, 21b; Shevuot 4b, 16a, 45a; Avodah Zarah 9b, 20a, 50b, 54b, 62a; Menachot 84a; Chullin 6a, 114b, 120b; Bekhorot 12b–13b, 51a, 52b; Arakhin 14b, 15b, 18b, 24a–34a; Temurah 6b, 27a; Niddah 8b, 47a–48a, 51b. Babylonia, 6th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr, Chaim Malinowitz, and Mordechai Marcus, 72 vols. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2006.
- Tanhuma Behar. 6th–7th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Metsudah Midrash Tanchuma: Vayikra. Translated and annotated by Avraham Davis; edited by Yaakov Y.H. Pupko, 5:502–30. Monsey, N.Y.: Eastern Book Press, 2006.
- Rashi. Commentary. Leviticus 25–26. Troyes, France, late 11th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, 3:317–46. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1994. ISBN 0-89906-028-5.
- Judah Halevi. Kuzari. 2:18. Toledo, Spain, 1130–1140. Reprinted in, e.g., Jehuda Halevi. Kuzari: An Argument for the Faith of Israel. Intro. by Henry Slonimsky, 93. New York: Schocken, 1964. ISBN 0-8052-0075-4.
- Zohar 3:107b–111a. Spain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1934.
- Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan, 3:40; Review & Conclusion. England, 1651. Reprint edited by C. B. Macpherson, 503–04, 723. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Classics, 1982. ISBN 0140431950.
- Thomas Mann. Joseph and His Brothers. Translated by John E. Woods, 356. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. ISBN 1-4000-4001-9. Originally published as Joseph und seine Brüder. Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer Verlag, 1943. (sacred stone).
- Ben Zion Bergman. “A Question of Great Interest: May a Synagogue Issue Interest-Bearing Bonds?” New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 1988. YD 167:1.1988a. Reprinted in Responsa: 1980–1990: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement. Edited by David J. Fine, 319–23. New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2005. ISBN 0-916219-27-5.
- Avram Israel Reisner. “Dissent: A Matter of Great Interest” New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 1988. YD 167:1.1988b. Reprinted in Responsa: 1980–1990: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement. Edited by David J. Fine, 324–28. New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2005. ISBN 0-916219-27-5.
- Elliot N. Dorff. “A Jewish Approach to End-Stage Medical Care.” New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 1990. YD 339:1.1990b. Reprinted in Responsa: 1980–1990: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement. Edited by David J. Fine, 519, 531–32, 564. New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2005. ISBN 0-916219-27-5. (implications of God’s ownership of the universe on the duty to maintain life and health).
- Jacob Milgrom. “Sweet Land and Liberty: Whether real or utopian, the laws in Leviticus seem to be a more sensitive safeguard against pauperization than we, here and now, have devised.” Bible Review. 9 (4) (Aug. 1993).
- Elliot N. Dorff. “Family Violence.” New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 1995. HM 424.1995. Reprinted in Responsa: 1991–2000: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement. Edited by Kassel Abelson and David J. Fine, 773, 792. New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2002. ISBN 0-916219-19-4. (verbal abuse).
- Elliot N. Dorff. “Assisted Suicide.” New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 1997. YD 345.1997a. Reprinted in Responsa: 1991–2000: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement. Edited by Kassel Abelson and David J. Fine, 379, 380. New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2002. ISBN 0-916219-19-4. (implications for assisted suicide of God’s ownership of the universe).
- Jacob Milgrom. “Jubilee: A Rallying Cry for Today’s Oppressed: The laws of the Jubilee year offer a blueprint for bridging the gap between the have and have-not nations.” Bible Review. 13 (2) (Apr. 1997).
- Mary Douglas. Leviticus as Literature, 219–20, 242–44. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-19-924419-7.
- Joel Roth. “Organ Donation.” New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 1999. YD 336.1999-. Reprinted in Responsa: 1991–2000: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement. Edited by Kassel Abelson and David J. Fine, 194, 258–59. New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2002. ISBN 0-916219-19-4. (implications for organ donation of one’s duty to assist another).
- Jacob Milgrom. Leviticus 23–27, 3B:2145–271. New York: Anchor Bible, 2000. ISBN 0-385-50035-1.
- James Rosen. “Mental Retardation, Group Homes and the Rabbi.” New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2000. YD 336:1.2000. Reprinted in Responsa: 1991–2000: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement. Edited by Kassel Abelson and David J. Fine, 337–46. New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2002. ISBN 0-916219-19-4.
- Joseph Telushkin. The Ten Commandments of Character: Essential Advice for Living an Honorable, Ethical, Honest Life, 290–91. New York: Bell Tower, 2003. ISBN 1-4000-4509-6.
- Nathaniel Philbrick. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, 309. New York: Viking Penguin, 2006. ISBN 0-670-03760-5. (Jubilee.)
- U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report: June 2008.