Behar

The Sabbatical Year

25:1 God spoke to Moses, continuing to communicate with him at the foot of1 Mount Sinai, saying,

2 “Speak to the Israelites. You must say to them: ‘As I have told you,2 when you enter the land that I am giving you, the land must periodically rest by observing an agricultural Sabbath in honor of God and in acknowledgment of the fact that He created the world.3 Specifically—

3Once you have conquered and settled the land, you must begin counting the years. You may sow your field for six years, and you may prune your vineyard for six years, gathering in the land’sproduce,

4 but in the seventh year, the land must be given a complete rest; this is its Sabbath in honor of God.4 You must not sow your field, nor may you prune your vineyard.

5During this year, you may only gather produce that has been declared ownerless. If you do not declare the produce of your fields and vineyards ownerless, you may not even reap the aftergrowth (i.e., whatever has grown on its own from the seed that fell to the ground during) your previous harvest, and you may not pick the grapes that you have set aside for yourself, for this year must be a year of rest for the land with respect to ownership, too.

6Once you have declared the produce that grows during the Sabbath of the land ownerless, it will be yours to eat. It must be equally available for you, for your Jewish bondmen and bondwomen, as well as for your non-Jewish hired worker and resident alien who live with you.

7 All of its produce must also be made freely available to eat for your domestic animals and for the undomesticated animals that are in your land, on an equal basis. In other words, you may feed yourselves, your households, and your domestic animals from any particular type of produce that you have stored away as long as that type of produce is available and accessible in the fields or vineyards for undomesticated animals. Once it has ceased to be available outside, you must remove it from your storehouses, bring it into the open field, and declare it ownerless. You may then gather it along with the rest of the people.

From then on, every seventh year must be observed in this way.

The Jubilee Year

8Each period of six years of work followed by one sabbatical year will make up one sabbatical cycle. In addition to counting the years for the purpose of observing the sabbatical year, you must count for yourself seven sabbatical cycles, i.e., seven years seven times, observing each seventh year as a sabbatical year. The time-period of these seven sabbatical cycles will thus amount to 49 years.

9Regardless of whether you will have observed the sabbatical years during this 49-year period, you must proclaim the following year, the 50th, to be a special year, by means of shofar blasts: In the seventh month, Tishrei, on the 10th of that month, i.e., on the Day of Atonement, you must proclaim this year to be special by sounding the shofar throughout your land.

Even if the high court sees fit in the future to prohibit the blowing of the shofar when Rosh HaShanah occurs on the Sabbath,5 this prohibition need not extend to Yom Kippur of the 50th year that occurs on the Sabbath.6

10Although you are to blow the shofar only on Yom Kippur, you—via your representatives, the court—must sanctify the 50th year from its beginning, 10 days earlier, by declaring it to begin on that day.7

On Yom Kippur of this year, you must proclaim freedom throughout the land for all Jewish bondservants—whether they were indentured by the court in order to pay back what they stole8 or they indentured themselves out of destitution9—even if their original term of service is not yet up. The release afforded by this year applies only to those bondservants who live in the Land of Israel.10

You must designate this year as the Jubilee, so named after the horn of the ram (yovel) blown to announce it.

During this year, each of you must return to his landed property; thus, you must return any fields that you have purchased to their original owners.

Together with the other bondservants who are released during this year, each of you whose term of service has been extended by having his ears pierced11 must also return to his family.

11Even though the release of bondservants begins only on Yom Kippur, the observance of the Jubilee year does not extend until Yom Kippur of the following year. You must treat only the 50th year itself as the Jubilee and not apply any of its laws to any part of the year following.

Regarding agricultural work, this year must be treated just like the sabbatical year: you must not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. You must also declare this year’s produce ownerless; unless you do, you may not even reap its aftergrowth, and you may not pick the grapes that you had set aside for yourself.

12 It is the Jubilee year: its holiness extends to its produce, rendering its use subject to specific limitations. Among these limitations is selling the produce commercially; you may only sell small amounts in order to purchase other articles. If you do purchase something with the proceeds of the sale of this year’s produce, the sanctity of the produce (together with the attendant limitations on its use) transfers to the purchased article; however, the original produce remains holy for you12—it cannot be “redeemed” out of its sanctity, as other consecrated items can.13 The produce of the sabbatical year possesses similar sanctity.

A Closer Look

[12] Subject to specific limitations: The restrictions on the use of the produce of the sabbatical and Jubilee years include:14

· It may only be consumed (in the case of produce usually consumed as food) or used (in the case of produce usually used in some other way, such as burning olive oil for light) for personal use, not for monetary gain.

· It may not be bought, sold, or discarded.

· It may only be used optimally, not in any way that wastes more than is wasted in the course of its usual use (e.g., food normally eaten whole may not be juiced).

Like the produce of the sabbatical year, you may only eat any particular type of produce of the Jubilee year that you have stored away as long as that type of produce is also available for undomesticated animals to eat from the field. Once it has ceased to be available outside, you must remove it from your property, bring it into the open field, and declare it ownerless. You may then gather it along with the rest of the people.

13As just stated,15 during this Jubilee Year, each of you must return to his landed property, meaning that all landed property that had been purchased during the previous 49 years must be returned to its original owner. This injunction includes the case of a person who purchases his father’s field from the individual to whom the father sold it; the son must return this field to his father at the onset of the Jubilee year.

Second Reading14As mentioned,16 it is forbidden to deal commercially in produce of the sabbatical or Jubilee years. If a person transgresses this prohibition, he will suffer monetary loss and eventually be forced to sell some of his personal (non-landed) property in order to pay for his sustenance. Hence, I will now review some of the laws of selling personal property:17

As you have been taught,18 you must not cheat in business dealings, whether with Jews or with non-Jews.19 Thus, when you sell something to your fellow Jew or buy something from your fellow Jew, you must not cheat one another. On the contrary, you must assist your fellow Jew by trying to buy from him and sell to him whenever possible.

15Therefore, when you purchase land, you must purchase it from your fellow Jew while reducing the price according to the number of years that have elapsed since the previous Jubilee year. For his part, he must sell you hisland according to the number of years of crops the land is expected to produce until the next such year.

16Thus, the more the remaining years, the more you (as the seller) may increase your offer for its purchase price; the fewer the remaining years, the more you (as the buyer) may decrease your offer for its purchase price. The price is prorated because the landowner is selling you not the land outright—since the land must return to him in the Jubilee year—but is merely leasing the land to you so you can produce a specific number of crops. In this way, both of you will be ensured of not cheating each other.

In any case, once he sells you his land, he may redeem it only after two years have elapsed since the sale.

17Besides not cheating each other by buying or selling at unfair prices, none of you may taunt your fellow Jew20 or, as you have been told,21 mislead him by giving him business advice that is in your best interest rather than his, even if it is not to his detriment. Even though you may be able to deceive other people into believing that you advised him in his interest, you cannot deceive Me; you must therefore fear your God. I am God, who may be relied upon to punish you if you transgress this prohibition.

The Sabbatical Year, continued

18 You must carry out My rules pertaining to the sabbatical year, and safeguard My ordinances pertaining to the sabbatical year by studying them thoroughly, and then perform them. Then you will live on the land securely. If, however, you neglect the observance of the sabbatical year, you will forfeit the privilege of dwelling in your land.22

Third Reading (Second when combined)19Moreover, if you observe the sabbatical year properly, the land will yield its produce, you will eat to satiety, for the food will be miraculously filling,23 and you will live upon the land securely, i.e., without fear of drought.

20 If, now that you have heard these assurances of abundance and satiety, you should wonder, “What, indeed, will we eat in the seventh year? How will these blessings be materialized?24 We cannot sow and reap a harvest, and moreover, we cannot even gather our produce that grows by itself—such as fruit and the aftergrowth of the preceding harvest—into our homes, for it all must be declared ownerless!”

21Know then, that I will command My blessing for you in the sixth year, and it will yield enough produce for the better part of three years: the second half of the sixth year, after the harvest in Nisan; the entire seventh year; and until Nisan of the eighth year, when you can harvest what you sowed in Marcheshvan of that year.

22for you will sow in Marcheshvan of the eighth year, while still eating from the old, sixth-year crops. You will then harvest the eighth-year crop in Nisan of that year, but nonetheless, you will still eat mostly from the old crop while the eighth-year crop remains in the fields and granaries to dry, as usual, until Tishrei of the ninth year, which is the time of the arrival of its crop from the fields and granaries into your homes.

Moreover, once every 50 years, when the 49th year—which is a sabbatical year—is followed by the Jubilee year, in which agricultural work is also forbidden—I will make the sixth year yield enough produce for four years!

Real Estate

23As stated,25 in the Jubilee year you must return all land you may have purchased during the previous 49 years to its original owners. This injunction is also subject to a passive commandment: The land must not be sold in such a way as to sever it permanently from its original owner. Do not feel as though you have been dealt with unjustly by having to return the land that you paid for, for the land belongs to Me. You should never consider yourselves the land’s owners, for in reality, you are transient sojourners and temporary residents dwelling with Me on My land.

24For the same reason, throughout the land of your possession, you must also allow the land its redemption before the beginning of the Jubilee year, according to the following rules:

Fourth Reading25Land should only be sold on account of destitution; even under such circumstances, one should never sell all his land, but always leave some for himself to live off of.

It was mentioned that it is forbidden to deal commercially with produce of the sabbatical or Jubilee years,26 and that if a person transgresses this prohibition, he will suffer financial loss and eventually be forced to sell some of his personal (non-landed) property in order to pay for his sustenance.27 If he nonetheless continues to deal commercially with produce of the sabbatical or Jubilee years, he will incur even greater loss and be forced to sell his landed property. Hence, I will now review some of the laws of selling landed property:28

If your brother Israelite becomes destitute and therefore sells some of his inherited land, this land may later be “redeemed,” i.e., repurchased: His redeemer who is related to him may, two years after the sale,29 come forth and redeem that which his relativehad sold. The purchaser may not refuse to sell back the land.

26 If a man does not have a relative who has the means to act as the redeemer of his land, but he obtains sufficient means on his own to afford its redemption,

27 he must calculate the years for which the land has been sold, i.e., the number of years from the sale until the Jubilee year, and return the difference between the sale price and the prorated value of the years remaining until the Jubilee year to the man to whom he sold it, and then he may return to his inheritance.

28 But if he cannot afford enough to repay the purchaser the full prorated amount due him, he may not redeem his land piecemeal;his land-sale must remain in the possession of the one who has purchased it until the beginning of the Jubilee year. It must go out of the purchaser’s possession in the Jubilee year and revert to the original owner’s inheritance.

Fifth Reading (Third when combined)29It was mentioned that it is forbidden to deal commercially with produce of the sabbatical or Jubilee years;30 that if a person transgresses this prohibition, he will suffer financial loss and eventually be forced to sell some of his personal (non-landed) property in order to pay for his sustenance;31 and that if he continues to do so, he will incur even greater loss and be forced to sell his landed property.32 If, even after this, he continues to deal commercially with produce of the sabbatical or Jubilee years, he will incur still greater financial loss and be forced to sell his home. Hence, I will now review some of the laws of selling houses:33

In contrast to farmland, when a man sells a residential house situated inside a city that was walled when you entered the Promised Land—even if it is no longer walled when the house is sold34its redemption may take place only until the end of the year of its sale. Thus, its period of redemption is one full year.

30 If it is not redeemed by the end of a complete year since its sale, then that house in the city that had a surrounding wall when you entered the land will remain permanently the property of the person who purchased it, throughout his generations. It will not leave his possession in the Jubilee year, even if the Jubilee year begins during the year of its sale.

31In contrast to houses in walled cities, houses in open cities that do not have a surrounding wall are to be considered, for the purpose of redemption, as the field of the land, and may therefore be redeemed throughout the entire period between the sale and the beginning of the Jubilee year. But whereas fields may be redeemed only beginning two years after their sale, such houses must be allowed their redemption even immediately after their sale, if the original owner or his relative can afford it; there is no two-year minimum wait. Otherwise, the house will leave the purchaser’s possessionin the Jubilee year.

32You will be taught later35 that when you enter the land, you must set aside 48 cities for the Levites to live in, and that these cities are to be surrounded by a 1000-cubit strip of open space, which is further surrounded by another 1000-cubit strip of cultivatable land. Regarding the cities of the Levites: the Levites will have unlimited rights of redemption both of the houses of their cities and of their landed property. They will not have to wait two years to redeem their fields, and will be able to redeem their houses even after a year subsequent to the sale.

33 If someone purchases a house—or even an entire city—from the Levites, the purchased house or inherited city will leave the possession of the purchaser in the Jubilee year and return to the Levites, because the houses of the cities of the Levites are their sole inherited property amid the Israelites. They will not be allotted any other tribal inheritance as will the rest of the tribes.

The rule that the Levites have unlimited rights of redemption applies also if the Levite who is redeeming a house or an entire city is doing so from other Levites, i.e., a Levite relative who has redeemed the house or city from a non-Levite buyer. Likewise, if the house or city is not repurchased by its original owners from the Levite redeemer by the beginning of the Jubilee year, the redeemed house or inherited city will automatically leave the possession of this Levite redeemer in the Jubilee year and return to its original owners, for the same reason.

34You will be taught later36 that a person may consecrate his field to the Temple treasury, and if he does so, he may afterwards redeem it until the Jubilee year; and that further, if he fails to redeem it by then (or someone else redeems it before he has a chance to), it becomes the permanent property of the priests in the Jubilee year. The rules governing the redemption of a consecrated field are different for Levites, however: A field from the outer strip of land surrounding the open areas of the Levites’ cities cannot be “sold” to the priests in this manner, because it is the Levites’ eternal inheritance. It does not become the permanent property of the priests in the Jubilee year (whether or not the treasurer sold it to a third party), and the Levite may redeem it even after that year.

These special rules apply only to the Levites’ original 48 cities, not to any additional cities they may build for themselves afterward, nor to any house that a Levite owns in some other city.37

Charity and Interest

35If, even after this,38 an individual continues to deal commercially with produce of the sabbatical or Jubilee years, he will incur still greater financial loss and be forced to borrow money at interest. Hence, I will now review some of the laws of charity and interest:39

If your brother Israelite is becoming destitute, then you must take pains to support him, i.e., come to his financial aid,as soon as his “hand, i.e., his financial power, begins to falter beside you, so that he can continue to live with you in financial solvency, for it is far easier to help him before his financial collapse than afterward. You must demonstrate this concern for him even if he be a convert, and even if he be a resident alien, who can only partially be considered your “brother.” If he ultimately does become destitute, you must loan him money or give him a gift of charity, as you have been taught40 and will be taught in greater detail later.41

36When you loan him money, you must not take interest from him,as you have been taught.42 This offense is so serious that I now repeat it: You must not take interest from him! I know that you will be tempted to consider interest just compensation for the earnings your funds would have produced had you not loaned them to your fellow, so I therefore admonish you: You must fear your God and resist this temptation. You might also be tempted to pretend that the money you are lending your fellow is really that of a non-Jew and that you are exacting interest from your fellow on behalf of this non-Jew; I therefore admonish you: You must fear your God, for I know the truth. Rather, enable your brother Israelite to live with you in financial solvency by loaning him money interest-free.

37The prohibition against taking interest applies regardless of the form of the loan: You must not give him your money on the condition of being paid back with interest; similarly, you must not give him your food or anything else on the condition of being paid back with interest.

38 I am God, your God, who took you out of Egypt: Just as I was able to discern who was and who was not a firstborn in Egypt, so can I tell if you loan someone your money pretending that it is a non-Jew’s. Furthermore, I took you out of Egypt on the condition that you accept My commandments, even if they be difficult, such as this one,43 and in order to give you Canaan as your reward for fulfilling all My commandments—so rest assured that your reward will be commensurate with the difficulty of fulfilling the commandment. Finally, I took you out of Egypt to give you Canaan in order to be a God to you, for the Promised Land is more receptive to Divine consciousness than any other place in the world;44 therefore, relatively speaking, I consider Myself God to whomever lives in it, and consider whoever leaves it to be an idolater.

The Hebrew Bondman

Sixth Reading (Fourth when combined) 39If, even after the above-mentioned warnings,45 an individual continues to deal commercially with produce of the sabbatical or Jubilee years, he will incur still greater financial loss and be forced to indenture himself as a bondman, as follows:46

As you have been taught,47 the court can indenture someone as a bondman if he steals something and cannot otherwise afford to pay back the value of what he has stolen. A man (but not a woman48) can also indenture himself as a bondman if he becomes so poor that he has no other way to support himself.

If your brother Israelite becomes destitute, even though he is living with you and you are commanded not to let him become destitute,49 and he is indentured to you as a bondman, you must nevertheless not work him with labor that makes him appear to be a bondman, i.e., publicly degrading work such as carrying your clothes behind you in public or putting your boots on you in public.

40Rather, he must be employed by you as would be an employee or a hired resident: give him honorable craftwork to do and treat him respectfully. Just like a bondman who was indentured by the court in order to pay off his theft, he must work for six years, the sole difference being that he may only work with you until the beginning of the Jubilee Year. If this year occurs in the middle of his term of service, he goes free.

If the self-indentured bondman decides to remain in your service beyond his six-year term, you must take him to the court and pierce his right ear, just as is done with a bondman who was indentured by the court in order to pay back his theft.50 He is given the relatively light punishment of having his ear pierced51 since he only indentured himself on account of his abject poverty. Nonetheless, his right ear is pierced, because the right, better ear signifies proper use of the power of hearing. He heard Me say ‘For the Israelites are servants to Me; they are My servants!’52 on Mount Sinai, but he nonetheless went and found himself another master, and is not bothered by this—as evidenced by the fact that he is in no hurry to be a free man. (He is certainly not destitute now, since his master had to feed him and his family during his period of service, he has the money he was bought for, and his master will give him gifts when he releases him.53) The ear is pierced against a door, which in turn must be standing upright like a doorpost, because the door and doorpost were witnesses, so to speak, to how I liberated the people from slavery in Egypt,54 and this individual nonetheless chose to prolong his period of service.55 After this procedure, he must serve you until the Jubilee year.

41Although it might seem that by indenturing himself, the bondman agreed to subsist on whatever diet you might be inclined to provide him, even the most meager, you must nonetheless feed him properly, even if this detail was not stipulated when he was indentured. Furthermore, if the bondman has children when he indentures himself to you, you are obligated to feed these children throughout his term of service.56 When his term of service is up (or terminated by the Jubilee year), he must leave you—thereby ending your obligation to feed him and his children with him. He must return to his family and reassume the social status of his fathers. No one is allowed to despise him or belittle him on account of his having been a bondman.

42 For even though he was your servant for a time, they—the Jewish people—are, in reality, My servants, whom I brought out of Egypt. My deed of purchase, so to speak, predates yours. Thus, you all carry the distinction and prestige of being My servants, and therefore, when one of you is indentured as a bondman to another Israelite, it is not such an ignominy. For this reason, you may indeed be indentured as bondmen to one another, but by the same token, you must not treat your Israelite bondman as a true bondman but as an employee.57

Accordingly, Israelite bondmen must not be indentured as a non-Jewish slave is sold, i.e., publicly, publicizing their names and forcing them to stand on a platform so prospective buyers can examine them.58

43In addition to not shaming the bondman in public, you must not work him even privately with backbreaking, i.e., demoralizing or unusual labor, by having him do unnecessary jobs or tasks for which you specify no time-limit. Even though you may be able to deceive other people into believing that you are not working him this way, you cannot deceive Me; you must therefore fear your God and do what I say.

Non-Jewish Bondservants

44You will be taught later59 that you must either kill or expel all members of the seven Canaanite nations currently occupying the Land of Israel. Thus, since, as just stated, you must not give your Jewish bondservants menial tasks, and you cannot employ any of the present occupants of the land for this purpose, it follows that the only male bondmen or female bondwomen whom you may possess for menial labor must come from the non-Jewish nations who reside not within the borders of the Promised Land but around you, outside its borders. You may only purchase non-Jewish male bondmen or female bondservants from them.

45National identity among non-Jewish nations is transmitted patrilineally; thus, you are not required to kill or expel children of Canaanite women[myw1] if these children are fathered by men from other non-Jewish nations. Therefore, you may also purchase bondservants from among the children of female Canaanite residents who happen to live among you, as well as—if these children have their own families—from their family who happens to live among you, to whom they gave birth in your land from non-Canaanite fathers. If you purchase such bondservants, they too will become part of your estate.

46 You may retain ownership of them for your children after you as an inherited estate, and may thus have them work for you forever, i.e., with no limitations on their term of service. But as for your brethren, the Israelites, no man—not even a tribal prince or your king—may work his brother Israelitewith backbreaking, i.e., demoralizing or unusual labor.

The Hebrew Bondman, continued

Seventh Reading 47 If an individual indentured himself to another Jew as a bondman as a result of becoming impoverished on account of having dealt commercially in produce of the sabbatical or Jubilee years,60 and continues to transgress this prohibition after completing his term of service, he will again incur financial loss, but this time be forced to indenture himself as a bondman to a non-Jew, as follows:61

As you know, if a non-Jew renounces idolatry, i.e., accepts monotheism, you will be allowed to let him live in your land as a “resident alien.” You have also seen62 and will see further63 how you must treat such a resident alien equitably and even charitably. Nevertheless, notwithstanding his commendable acceptance of monotheism, his reluctance to consummate this undertaking by converting to Judaism indicates that he is still attached to his non-Jewish mindset and/or milieu. You must therefore ensure that in your dealings with him, he be influenced by your commitment to Judaism rather than you be influenced by his ambivalent attitudes toward such a commitment. Indeed, I assure you that if you influence him, he will succeed in his material endeavors, but if he influences you, you will fail in yours.64 Thus, if a resident alien gains financial means, it will beon account of associating with you and coming under your influence, and if your brother Israelite becomes destitute, it may well be on account of associating with him and coming under his influence.

For this same reason, I forbid you to indenture yourselves as bondmen to resident aliens if you become destitute; you may only indenture yourselves to your fellow Jews.65Nonetheless, if your brother Israelite is indentured in his destitution as a bondman to a resident alien among you, or worse, to serve as an attendant of an idol of the non-Jewish family of a convert or resident alien, the sale is valid, and the Israelite may remain in the employ of the resident alien or idolatrous cult until the beginning of the Jubilee year, even if this be more than six years from the date of the sale.66 If the bondman has children when he indentures himself to his non-Jewish employer, the employer is obligated to feed these children throughout the bondman’s term of service.67

48Nonetheless, after he is indentured, he must have unlimited rights of redemption. One of his brothers must redeem him immediately in order to prevent him from assimilating into non-Jewish culture.

49If the brothers cannot redeem him immediately, then either his uncle or his cousin must redeem him; or, if they cannot, the next closest relative from his family must redeem him; or, if none of his relatives can redeem him immediately, then when he becomes able to afford it, he can be redeemed on his own.

50This redemption must be conducted as a fair and equitable business transaction; whoever redeems him must calculate with his purchaser how many years elapsed from the year he was indentured to him until the Jubilee year. The purchase price will then be divided by that number of years: the result will then be considered his working rate during his term as a hired worker.

51 If there are still many years remaining until the Jubilee year, he must accordingly return his redemption money to his purchaser out of the money for which he was purchased.

52Similarly, if only a few years remain until the Jubilee year, he must make the same calculation. He must return the redemption money to the purchaser according to his years that remain until the Jubilee year.

53 He must be considered by his purchaser as an employee hired on a yearly basis. The purchaser must not oppress him with backbreaking—i.e., demoralizing or unusual—labor; if the purchaser does so in your sight, the purchaser will understand any lack of response on your part as tacit approval.

54 If he is not redeemed through any of these ways, he must leave his non-Jewish employer in the Jubilee year—thus ending his employer’s obligation to feed him and his children with him.

Maftir55He must be redeemed because the Israelites are servants to Me; they—the Jewish people—are, in reality, My servants, whom I brought out of Egypt. My deed of purchase, so to speak, predates that of any other purchaser. I am God, your God; we are so intimately bound that whenever you are enslaved, it is as if I, so to speak, am also enslaved.

Inasmuch as I did not bring the non-Jew out of Egypt and thereby make him part of My inner circle of personal servants, so to speak, he does not carry this distinction or prestige. Therefore, although you can indeed be indentured to other Israelites as bondmen,68 you cannot technically be indentured to non-Jews as bondmen, since that would conflict with your already-operative subjugation to Me as My servants. Rather, when you indenture yourself to him you do so only as an employee, i.e., you work for him, but you do not become his.69

26:1Even if you indenture yourself as an attendant to an idol, you must not interpret this Divine providence as My implicit approval that you engage in this idol’s cult: As you have been told, you must not make idols for yourselves,70 nor may you set up for yourselves a sculpted image71 or single-stone pedestal72 worshipped as an idol.

On the other hand, you must not attempt to remain faithful to Me while in the non-Jew’s employ by devising sham means of worshipping Me. For instance, once the Temple is built, you will be forbidden to prostrate yourselves—even to Me—on any paved surface other than the paved Temple Courtyard. Thus, you must not lay a pavement of stones on which to prostrate yourselves anywhere else in your land (and all the more so, outside of it), for I am God, your God, whom you must worship according to the guidelines that I have established for you.

2Similarly, if you are sold into the employ of any non-Jew, you must not interpret this Divine providence as My implicit approval that you imitate his lifestyle. You must continue to keep My Sabbaths and fear My Sanctuary throughout your term of service to him. I am God, who may be relied upon to reward you for observing these commandments.’ ”

Bechukotai

Reward for Fulfilling the Commandments

26:3God continued to instruct Moses what to convey in His name to the people: “If you make sure to advance in the knowledge of My rules by studying the Torah assiduously, i.e., beyond the minimal requirement, and you make sure to study the Torah with the intent to safeguard your proper performance of My commandments,73 and then indeed perform them properly,

4I will reciprocate by granting you material beneficence that exceeds the limitations of nature: I will give you the rains in a manner most favorable to your benefit and convenience: They will fall in their time—i.e., the time I have designated for them exclusively—nighttime, when people are not outdoors working the land. This way, you will be able to work the land by day unhindered by rain. Moreover, I will further limit the rainfall to the time most convenient for you—the Sabbath night, when no one is usually about. Miraculously, the land will yield its full produce from the rain that falls during this short weekly period.74Also miraculously, the naturallybarren tree of the field will give forth its fruit.

5There will be so much grain that threshing will occupy you until the grape harvest, and harvesting the grapes will occupy you until the time for sowing the fields again for grain. But you will not need this overabundance for yourselves, since your food will be so miraculously satiating that you will be able to eat just a small amount of your food to satiate yourselves. You will live in security in your land, i.e., without fear of drought.75

Second Reading6I will not only bless you with abundance, but will ensure that you can enjoy it securely: I will grant peace in the land. You will lie down at night and sleep peacefully, for there will be no cause for fear. I will even remove wild beasts from the land so you will have no fear of them, and no foreign army will even pass through your land on its way elsewhere, so you will have no fear that they will plunder you on the way.

7If you go to war outside your land, you will pursue your enemies but will not have to kill them yourselves, for they will fall before you, one by the sword of the other.

8 Five of the weakest among you will pursue a hundred of them. But the more of you who are loyal to My Torah, the less of you will be required proportionately to pursue your enemies, so thus, a hundred of you will pursue ten thousand of them, and moreover, in the merit of the increased number of those of you who observe My Torah, your enemies will fall before you by the sword in a miraculous way.

9In recompense for your assiduous study of the Torah,76 I will turn My attention away from rewarding all My creatures for their obedience in order to focus on you, bestowing upon you special reward for serving Me beyond what is required. (Even though non-Jews may also serve Me beyond what is required of them, the nature of their obligations toward Me and the supererogatory efforts they may exert in this regard cannot be compared with your obligation to study the Torah and the supererogatory efforts that you can exert in doing so.) I will make you fruitful by increasing your fertility and guaranteeing that all your progeny be similarly fertile, and I will make all of you and your progeny physically robust and tall.77 I will ultimately establish My covenant with you in anew, permanent form, by making My teachings so much a part of your nature that you will never again transgress My will.78

Third Reading (Fifth when combined)10The produce will be of such high quality, last so long, and age so well that you will eat doubly old produce (i.e., the harvest of the year before last), for it will taste better than last year’s harvest, which will in turn taste better than this year’s harvest. For the same reasons, you will have to clear out the old, already driedproduce from the storehouses—since you have not had a chance to eat it yet—in order to make room for the new harvest to dry there.

11 I will place My permanent dwelling—the Temple—in your midst, and My soul—My Divine Presence—will not reject you by departing from you.

12You will become so accustomed to My presence that in the afterlife, I will, so to speak, walk among you and you will not be afraid of Me. Nonetheless, this familiarity will not make you any less aware of My transcendence, and therefore, you will still revere Me: I will be your God and you will be My people.

13You should not hesitate to trust that I can perform all these miracles, for, after all, I am God, your God, who miraculously took you out of Egypt, from being slaves to them; I broke the crossbars of your yoke and led you upright into freedom.

Threats and Curses

14 But if you commit the following sevenfold train of misdeeds: [1] you purposely do not listen, i.e., do not study My Torah assiduously, intending thereby to affront Me; and consequently[2] you do not perform all these commandments,

15 and if you consequently[3] despise those who do follow My rules; [4] reject the sages, who teach you My ordinances; [5] prevent others from performing the commandments; [6] deny that I gave the Torah and that its rules are My commandments; and finally [7] break My covenant with you by denying My very existence,

16 then I too, will do likewise to you, punishing you with a sevenfold train of calamities. I will set upon you [1] disorientation, [2] consumption and blisters, [3] fever, [4] diseases that dash the hopes and[5] depress the soul of the sufferer’s family, who longs in vain for his recovery. [6] You will sow your seed in vain, for it will either not grow, or [7] if it does grow, your enemies will eat it.

17Besides the above seven punishments, which are mainly for not studying the Torah and performing My commandments (the first two sins), I will turn toward you, according you special attention in punishing you for hating and forsaking Me beyond this (the last five sins).79 You will be smitten before your enemies. Those who hate you will rule over you. You will flee, although no one will be pursuing you.

These same words contain additional, more serious threats: I will angrily do the same to you. I will cause the following punishments to assail you in overlapping succession—before one is finished, the next will begin:[1] disorienting pestilence, which will confine you to bed but not afflict your skin; but this will progress to [2] consumption and blisters, which will damage your skin but not give you a fever; but this will progress to[3] fever, which will make you feel ill but not destroy your hopes of recovery; but this will progress to [4] diseases that dash your hopes of recovery but still allow others to entertain the hope that you will recover; but this will progress to[5] diseases that depress the soul by depriving others, as well, of any hope for your recovery. [6] One year you will sow your seed in vain, but [7] the next year it will grow, but before you can harvest it for yourselves, your enemies will lay siege to your city, and, finding your crops waiting for them in the field, they will eat it, while you have nothing stored up in your city from the previous year to eat.

Allegorically, you will sow your seed, i.e., your children, with great effort, but sin, your enemy, will consume them.

I will turn toward you, according you special attention in punishing you for your disloyalty to Me. You will be smitten by pestilence within your cities before your enemies, who are laying siege outside the city. Those among you who hate you—traitors from among your own ranks—will rule over you. In contrast to foreign enemies, who only seek to plunder you of your observable wealth, traitors—who are privy to your secrets and harbor more deep-seated hatred for you—will plunder you of your hidden wealth, as well.80 You will flee in panic, although no one from among these traitors will actually be pursuing you, since they, just like you, will be starving as a result of the enemy’s siege.

18 If, during these punishments, you do not listen to Me and repent, I will add another seven punishments for your above-listed seven sins that you continue to commit:

19[1] I will break, i.e., destroy,the magnificent edifice of the Holy Temple, the pride of your strength.81[2] I will make your skies dry like iron, which does not sweat, meaning that there will be no rain to water new crops, and [3] your land moist like copper, which does sweat, causing any existing produce to rot.82

20[4] Your strength will be expended in vain, making you frustrated over the futility of your work. [5] Your land will not even yield a quantity of produceequal to the amount of seed that you planted in it. [6] The tree will be debilitated by the lack of nutrients in the earth, and will therefore not give forth any ripe fruit in season, and [7] it will drop its fruit before ripening it.

21 If, in your stubbornness, you continue to walk with Me—i.e., perform My commandments—irregularly, and you do not wish to listen to Me, I will add seven more punishments, corresponding to your above-listed seven sins that you continue to commit:

22[1] I will incite83both the wild beasts of the field and [2] your domesticated animals84 against you, [3] both of which will bite you (miraculously, in the case of the domesticated animals that do not usually bite) lethally.85 [4] They will bereave you of your young children. They will attack both you and your other livestock, but whereas [5] they will utterly destroy your livestock, which, being outside in the fields, will be unable to escape their attack, [6] they will only diminish you, since you will be able to seek refuge inside your homes. [7] All your roads, both major and minor thoroughfares, will become desolate.

23 If, in your continued stubbornness, you will not be corrected by these punishments enough to return to Me, and you thereforecontinue to walk with Me—i.e., perform My commandments—irregularly,

24 then I too, will treat you stubbornly: I will smite you, too—reciprocally—sevenfold for persisting in your above-listed seven sins, as follows.

25[1] I will bring an army against you that will avenge your disloyalty to Me; it will strike you in accordance with the vengeance described in this covenant. [2] As this army approaches, you will gather into your cities. [3] I will send an epidemic into your midst, and those of you who remove the corpses from the city in order to bury them will be delivered into the enemy’s hands.

A Closer Look

[25] Who remove the corpses from the city: It is generally forbidden to bury a person inside any walled city in the Land of Israel.86 In addition, it was the traditional practice in Jerusalem not to allow a corpse to even remain overnight within in the city.87

26[4] When I eliminate your every source of food, [5] ten women will bake your bread in one oven because of the lack of wood for fuel. [6] Moreover, the grain will rot, causing the bread to crumble in the oven. The women will therefore weigh and divide the crumbs among themselves, and will bring back your bread by weight. [7] Your food will be so miraculously unsatiating88 that no matter how much you will eat, you will not be satisfied.

27 If, despite all this, you do not listen to Me, and you thereforecontinue stubbornly to walk with Me—i.e., perform My commandments—irregularly,

28 then I will treat you with furious stubbornness: I will chastise you reciprocally sevenfold for persisting in your above-listed seven sins, as follows.

29[1] You will eat the flesh of your sons, and you will eat the flesh of your daughters.

30[2] I will demolish your tall and fortified edifices and thereby cut down your idols that you place on their roofs.89[3] I will make your corpses fall upon the ‘corpses’ of your smashed idols. [4] My soul—the Divine presence—will reject you by departing from you.90