Behar BechukotaiAs I many know I grew up in Sharon, Massachusetts, a small New England town whose history is goes back to the Revolution. I remember the milk truck from Crescent Ridge, the dairy farm in town which would leave milk bottles in the metal box on our front step. There was an enormous corn farm next to my elementary school and it was literally unheard of to eat store-bought corn. There were many mornings when deer were standing in my backyard and then scamper off into the woods at even the slightest sound. When my family travels up to Massachusetts in the summer I still relish the opportunity to drive through the town and show my children different sights, tell them about this place, or that place. While it has been over 30 years since I left Sharon, but I still consider myself a Sharonite.

I mention this again as we read Parshat Behar – Bechukotai this week. This double parsha opens with the command to allow the land to lie fallow every the seven years, which is known as the Shmitta Year. The parsha then continues with the mandate to count seven cycles of the Shmitta Year. After the seventh cycle, there is an additional year, a fiftieth year known as the Yovel, the Jubilee Year. During this year, the land continues to lie fallow; a shofar is sounded and land that has been sold during the previous 50 years is returned to their original owners. Coupled with this, the Torah commands to “proclaim freedom throughout the land” (which interestingly is engraved on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia) and all indentured servants, those who because of theft or poverty, were compelled to serve another for six years, went free in the Yovel year.

This coming week we will celebrate another Yovel. Wednesday is the 28th of the month of Iyar, 50 years ago this week the Old City of Jerusalem, the eternal city of the Jewish people was liberated from its Jordanian captors. In what many could only describe as a nes, a miracle from the Divine, the Kotel was returned to Jewish hands. While the Torah commands us to “proclaim freedom throughout the Land” so it could be heard everywhere, the sounds of General Motta Gur, the commander of the IDF units in Jerusalem declaring “Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) is in our hands!!” still reverberate in our ears. Indeed at that moment the IDF Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren blew a shofar at the Kotel, at its liberation.

Jerusalem has always played a prominent role in Jewish tradition and history. Jerusalem is special. The Talmud teaches that one who has not seen Jerusalem in its splendor has never seen beauty. There is a midrash which states that the Land of Israel is the center of the world and that Jerusalem is the center of the Land of Israel. What it meant to have the two parts of Jerusalem reunited, to be able once again to go to the Kotel and not just touch its stones, but have its stone touch you is something I can only imagine.

Sharon, Massachusetts is where I grew up and I will always have nostalgic feelings for this town. However, Jerusalem, where I was privileged to live for three years, where my Jewish spirit was formed, will always be home. This Wednesday, the 28th of Iyar I will say Hallel, I will celebrate the Yovel of Yerushalayim.

As we conclude the Book of VaYikra we say “Hazak, Hazak, V’Nit’hazayk”

Shabbat Shalom


Rabbi Yaakov Traiger