This week’s double portion of Behar- Bechukotai starts off “[A]nd G-d spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai”. Throughout the Torah, numerous portions begin with “G-d spoke to Moses”, but it is only in this portion that it mentions where – specifically on Mount Sinai. There are two lessons we can learn here. First, by connecting to Mount Sinai during the reading we are reminded of the mountain’s small size in relation to the neighboring mountains in the range. Despite it’s size, Mount Sinai was selected as the location for the giving of the Torah and the ultimate revelation of Light in the world. This reminds us to always remain humble and to “be small” with our ego. By remaining small and humble, we can achieve greatness and connect to our highest selves. Next, we always read this portion during the 49-day Counting of the Omer. This period of self-reflection and counting culminates on the holiday of Shavuot where the Israelites received the Torah on Mount Sinai and achieved spiritual redemption following their release from slavery in Egypt. By connecting to Mount Sinai in this portion, we are reminded to remain on the path and stay the course throughout the remaining days of the Omer. Once we reach Mount Sinai on Shavuot, we can connect to the highest revelation of Light and spiritual consciousness available to us.
The portion also discusses the concept of Sabbatical years or Sh’mitah. G-d commands Moses to maintain the Sh’mitah, where every seventh year is considered a sabbatical year and the land inside of Israel is to be left alone and forbidden to be worked. Similarly, after seven sets of Sh’mitah – in the 50th year – there is to be a Yovel or Jubilee year where the same laws apply and slaves are set free and the land reverts to its original owner. The secret here is in the power of “letting go”. The word Sh’mitah means “suspension” and the Zohar indicates the root letters – Shin Mem Tav, mean “to drop” or “let go”. After working and connecting to the land in the physical realm for six years, we need to let go and connect to the higher spiritual realm in the 7th year. This is counter-intuitive, as we are conditioned to believe that continuous work and effort will deliver the best results. To the contrary, it is our separation from the daily routine and the mundane which makes a period of separation holy and enables us to connect to the realm of higher consciousness and miracles. We can see this working in Creation, where G-d created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh day; during the weekly cycle where we work for six days and then rest on the 7th day – Shabbat; and in the cycle of seven years, where we work the land for six years and then let the land rest in the 7th year pursuant to the laws of Sh’mitah. On a deeper kabbalistic level, seven is also connected to the sephirot which represent various levels of consciousness. Specifically, we connect to six higher sephirot, Chesed through Yesod, in the spiritual realm and then manifest things into our physical reality through the seventh sephirot, Malchut – which is separate from the others and represents kingdom. By disconnecting and separating, we provide a holy space in which to grow. The Yovel or Jubilee year takes place after seven cycles of seven years or in the 50th year. This also connects us to the 50th day – the day after the 49-day Counting of the Omer – which is the holiday of Shavout where we receive the Torah and connect to the infinite Light and wisdom of creation.
Recognizing the potential concern the Israelites will have about how they will eat during the Sh’mitah year, G-d assures the people that he will bless the 6th year so that the next three years are plentiful. The key lesson here is that of certainty. When faced with a major challenge in life, whether the threat of not being able to work the land for a year or the day-to-day issues we face in our lives, we must maintain certainty and have faith and unwavering conviction that all will be ok. By connecting to this portion in the reading we can tap into the energy of certainty and help to overcome any doubts we have, converting “I’ll believe it when I see it” to “I’ll see it when I believe it”.
Bechukotai is the last portion of Leviticus, the third book of the Torah. It is often read together with Behar, as is the case this year. The portion details a series of blessings which G-d will provide if His Statutes and Commandments are observed and a series of curses if the Statutes and Commandments are not followed. We can learn an important lesson here about cause and effect. It is not that G-d wants to punish us, but rather shows us that by exercising our free will we can choose light or darkness. We often question why bad things befall us. The key is to take responsibility for everything that happens to us and to recognize it is the cause of some action we took in this or a previous lifetime.
When we end this portion and the Book of Leviticus, (as we do when we complete any of the 5 Books of Moses) we say “Chazak, Chazak, V’Nischazek” – be strong, be strong and may we be strengthened! The word Chazak has the same numerical value (115) as Pei Hei Lamed, one of the 72 Names of God used by Kabbalists to connect to strength and healing. Words with similar gematria (numerical values) have an affinity and connection. Mem, Hei, Shin, another important sequence for healing has the numerical value of 345 or 3x Chazak. We can connect to the energy of healing through this aspect of the portion.