Torah and Tidbits: Behar

Behar: The beginning of this week’s parashah focuses on the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, which will take effect after the people enter the Promised Land. Both of these laws seek social equality, with the Sabbatical annulling debts every seventh year and the Jubilee every fifty years returning land to its original tribal owners. The Bible offers hope to the impoverished of new beginnings. Remarkably, these laws are described as given at Sinai, although the Torah reading is much further along in the cycle of readings. In our Etz Hayim text, the following commentary is provided (edited by Rabbi Harold Kushner):

“Why does the Torah emphasize that these agricultural laws were promulgated at Mount Sinai? Perhaps because at Sinai no one owned any land yet, and no one could object that the law deprived people of what they had worked to acquire. It is easier to propose a visionary system of equality when all start out equal. Another interpretation: Just as Sinai was the smallest of the mountains but the words spoken there changed the world, so the people Israel, among the smallest nations, presents a vision of social justice that has the power to change the world.”


June 5th concert in honor of Yom Yerushalyim. The Zimriyah Chorale is based in Los Angeles. Four of our congregants- Michael Palmer, Judy Fenton, Phyllis Steinberg, and Esther Fisher- meet every Thursday in our synagogue parking lot and carpool to rehearsal. They have profound respect for the conductor, who is not Jewish, but a world authority on Jewish music. They shared that his introductions to the pieces that the nearly 50-person choir will sing are quite memorable. And then, there is the goose-bump evoking music in celebration of Jerusalem. Please join a evening of memory-making celebration.

June 11th is our Shavuot celebration. The speakers will include a conversation with a UCI Physics professor on science and faith and a number of congregants. Some recent editions- Ahuva Ho on “The Threat to the Inquisition in 1525-26: Why did a Spanish Crypto-Jew Write a letter to the Jews of Rome”; Alan Cortez on “The Cherubim in Embrace – A Jewish Treasure Lost in Time” and (time permitting), my presentation on “Sleep: including, Is there a correct position according to Jewish Law?”

China through Jewish Eyes: I am pleased that I have received some questions after my note last week about the opportunity to travel with Rabbi Marvin Tokayer this coming October. Some have said, “I have been before. Why should I go again? What is the itinerary?” So I attach the itinerary and anticipate that you will see the richness of the planned tour. To spend time with Rabbi Tokayer and to learn the unique dimension of Jewish history is at the center of this compelling opportunity.

Grand Canyon photos. I am an Arizona native and have spent much time hiking different parts of the Grand Canyon. Dangling my feet on a cliff half way down to the Colorado River, surrounded by the colorful walls stretching into the distance, I have felt genuine awe. I share some professional photos for pre-Shabbat uplift: