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Liberty and Freedom From Religion in America

This week's double portion, B''har/ B'chukotai includes this famous phrase that appears on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia: "Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof" (Leviticus 25:10). The bell holds specialy significance for Americans, especially American Jews.

D'var Torah By: 
Steadying the Hand of Our Neighbor
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Craig Axler

The phrase on the Liberty Bell is just one of the many maxims woven throughout B'har/B'chukotai that promote the establishment of a just society.Another, is Leviticus 25:35: "If your kin, being in straits, come under your authority, and are held by you as though resident aliens, let them live by your side." 

The External War and the Internal War

This week's Torah portion is called Ki Teitzei — meaning literally, "When you go out." It is a reference to violence and war. "When you take the field [literally, "When you go out"] against your enemies, and the Eternal your God delivers them into your power and you take some of them captive ... " (Deuteronomy 21:10).

This sentence is but a tiny portion of more than a thousand verses in the Tanach that deal with war. Our Holy Scriptures came into history in a world in which fighting was a normal and often necessary activity. The ancient communities of the Middle East were governed according to tribal custom and law, and each ethnic community was in a combative relationship with its neighbor. There was no United Nations in those days, no European Union designed to administer diverse people according to collective rules and laws. Some tribal federations such as the twelve tribes of Israel pooled their resources, but that was for protection rather than for advancing peaceful relations with the rest of the world. The harsh social-economic and political reality of the ancient world often triggered violent and deadly conflicts between communities and peoples, and it is rare that we read a comment such as is found in Judges 3:11: " ... and the land had peace for forty years."

D'var Torah By: 
Understanding Ourselves as Part of the Ein Sof
Davar Acher By: 
Beni Wajnberg

In deciphering the meaning of our portion's call to violence and war (Deuteronomy 21:10), Rabbi Firestone cites the 19th century Chasidic teacher, the S'fat Emet, who understood the opening sentence of the parashah as referring to the daily struggles we face in life. He quotes the S'fat Emet's contention that, "In everything there is a point of divine life, but it is secret and hidden. Throughout the days of the week we are engaged in a battle and struggle to find that point ... "

The Sound of Shofar: Leading Us to Revelation and Freedom

Count off seven sabbath years — seven times seven years — so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. (Leviticus 25:8-10)

In this week's portion, the Jubilee year is established. Called yovel, our parashah explains how every forty-nine years — seven weeks of seven years — in the seventh month, on Yom Kippur, the shofar of freedom is to be sounded throughout the land for all its inhabitants. This iconic verse to proclaim freedom throughout the land is inscribed on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

D'var Torah By: 
Yovel: A Call to Renewal and Connection
Davar Acher By: 
Alexis Pinsky

While last week's parashah, Emor, contains a command for the people to keep Shabbat, resting every seventh day, B'har continues with the theme of rest by introducing the sabbatical year, a period of revitalization for the land, set to occur every seven years. It isn't until we set a precedent of rest for humanity and for the earth that we can arrive at the observance of the Jubilee year, distinguished as a time of release, a time when all the earth and the people who dwell on it can return to a more natural state of being, free of external burdens, able to connect more fully to God and the sources of holiness in their lives.

Remember: Do Not Forget!

I do a lot of reading in my line of work, and I often cringe when I come upon an oxymoron.

D'var Torah By: 
The Religious Jew
Davar Acher By: 
Adam Grossman

Over seventy laws are outlined in Parashat Ki Teitzei—the greatest number appearing in any Torah portion. Rules and observances have become central to religiosity.

In Which the People and the Land Are Redeemed

As we have made our way through the Book of Leviticus, we have often noted how boundaries have been crossed—between the inside and outside of the body in issues of

D'var Torah By: 
Redemption in Our Land in Our Time
Davar Acher By: 
Greg Weisman

The journey through the Book of Leviticus, which comes to a close this week with the double portion B'har/B'chukotai, is one that prepares the Israelites to dwell in the Land of Israel.

Ki Teitzei: We Are What We Remember

The last paragraph of Ki Teitzei is the maftir reading in non-Reform congregations on the Shabbat before Purim.

D'var Torah By: 
The Double-Edged Sword of Memory
Davar Acher By: 
Ethan Bair

The paragraph about blotting out the memory of Amalek at the end of Parashat Ki Teitzei serves as culmination to a Torah portion detailing moral laws.

For God's Sake

Parashat B'har begins in a very unusual way. "The Eternal One spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: . . ." (Leviticus 25:1-2).

D'var Torah By: 
Just Paying Attention Is Holy
Davar Acher By: 
Marc Kline

The biblical text speaks to us in a time post Sinai. Moses has already shared what he received while standing before God.

Ki Teitzei: When You Go Out as a Warrior

Parashat Ki Teitzei includes a rich and varied collection of directives that serve as a partial blueprint for behaviors and norms to create the emerging covenantal culture.

D'var Torah By: 
Quelling Indifference
Davar Acher By: 
Adrienne Scott

"You must not remain indifferent" (Deuteronomy 22:3) is a phrase found in this week's parashah. In the context of Torah, this principle refers to returning livestock, as well as any other

The Law of the Sabbatical Year

What does it mean to lie fallow? How do we distinguish fallowness from sterility? What will nourish us during this time of no creativity? When will we bloom again?

D'var Torah By: 
The Gift of Shabbat
Davar Acher By: 
Laura Geller

In his book The Gifts of the Jews, the non-Jewish author, Thomas Cahill, explains that the idea of the Sabbath was a gift that transformed civilization (New York: Knopf Publishing Group, 1

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