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From the Cantor

Cantor Marty

What a Hebrew calendar year this has been. It’s funny how every year, we comment on “Wow!, Rosh Hashanah is so early this year,” or as we will say this coming High Holidays, “so late this year.” In fact, Rosh Hashanah begins on October 2nd 2024, only 3 days from the absolute latest it can be in the 365 day Solar year.

The Jewish people have intercalated the Solar and Lunar calendar for thousands of years now by making 7 out of every 19 years, a Hebrew leap year where we add an entire extra month known as Adar II or Sheri. This is to ensure that Pesach-Passover actually occurs in the Springtime, the time of our redemption.

Pesach is known as “Chag Heh-Aviv” the Festival of Spring, a time of renewal and rebirth. There is another time of major renewal in Judaism that is directly connected to the land of Israel. It is called Shmitah-The Sabbatical year. In ancient Israel even until this day, our farmlands were to remain fallow, un-planted or harvested by Jews residing in the land for that entire year. We know from modern agriculture, that this was to preserve the nutrients of the soil and give the land itself a Shabbat to recover. What is so fascinating is that it is decreed that in the 50th year of the 7 year cycle, just as Shavuot occurs on the 50th day after Peach,  a Jubilee or “Yuval” was to be proclaimed throughout the land, were all Hebrew indentured servants, basically slaves, were to be released from their servitude.

            More amazing, was that all ancestral land that had been sold because of poverty, had to be returned by deed back to the original tribal owners. Can you imagine, 35 years after you’ve been living in your home, that someone would come banging on the door with the original deed of ownership and said, “Sorry dude, it’s the 50th year since my family left here and you must move and give it back to us. What is going on. Believe it or not, this was maybe the earliest example of a welfare system whereby the native population could not be perpetually poor and at the mercy of society. The current owners of the land knew that in the 50th year, they would have to leave.

The point of all this is The Haftahrah for this Shabbat. We rarely read “Behar” by itself. The calendar has to work out just right. In this story from the Book of Jeremiah, The 1st Temple in Jerusalem is about to be destroyed and the people taken into exile in Babylonia. The land will be empty for over 70 years before Cyrus the Emperor of Persia will allow us to go back and yet, Jeremiah fulfills the mitzvah of redeeming his families land right before he himself is either killed or taken away. I believe in light of what is going on in Eretz Yisrael right now, we must fight for our land. The land is just a manifestation of an idea, that the Jewish people have a homeland. We make it holy, the land does not make us special.

Shabbat Shalom.

Tue, June 18 2024 12 Sivan 5784