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Monday, May 3, 2010


This Shabbat we read together the last two parshiyot of the book of VaYikrah - Leviticus.  This book has been filled with laws - laws about sacrifices, about agriculture, about kashrut, about honorable behavior, and in general about what God will expect from the people of Israel as they go forward as free people to settle in the land of Israel.

The first of the two parshiyot - B'Har - describes the laws of shmitah and yovel - each one a time when Jews in the land of Israel are not to work the land.  Shmitah, which occurs each seventh year, is still observed today.  Every seven years Jews are to allow the land to rest - a shabbat for the land, just as every seven days we have a shabbat for people.  

Question to think about:
  • You may have heard about sabbatical leave in some professions - particularly teaching.  How do you think this is related to the law of shmitah - letting the land go unworked every seven years?
Another important issue in this parasha is the mitzvah not to charge interest when lending money (to another Jewish person).

Question to think about:
  • When the Torah was written, most people didn't have businesses.  Just about the only 'business' was farming or herding.  People didn't use money - they exchanged things they had for things they needed.  Why do you think there is a mitzvah not to charge your friends or neighbors or family-members interest if they needed to borrow from you?
The second parasha, B'Hukotai, tells us that we will be rewarded when we do things the way God wants us to, and punished if we don't.

Question to think about:
  • Which would you rather happen - be rewarded when you do something right or be punished when you do something wrong?  Which is similar to the ways laws usually work?  Which do you think works better? Can you create an experiment in your class to test your ideas?  Explain your thinking.
What do you think?
Be sure to share your answers by commenting on this blog

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