Knowing you are not alone can be one of the most vital pieces of information when facing life’s greatest challenges.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion (in Israel!) is “Behar” (Leviticus 25:1–26:2). It is the shortest Torah portion in the Book of Leviticus and one of the shortest portions in the entire Torah. The reading focuses heavily on the “Sabbatical Year,” which is the final year of the seven-year cycle during which the Land of Israel must lie fallow.
Additionally, every 50 years there is a “Jubilee” year.
One of the Jubilee year requirements was blowing a special shofar blast on Yom Kippur.
This shofar blast, as the Torah states, announces: “You shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants. It is a jubilee year for you, and you shall return each man to his ancestral heritage, each man to his family.”
This verse is a reference to the requirement to free all Hebrew slaves. That’s right, once the jubilee year came, one was required to free one’s slaves. This is true whether the slave had been in one’s service only a few months or whether he was in one’s service for the entire previous 49 years. All slaves go free. That’s what the special Yom Kippur shofar blast reminded the people to do.
According to the commentators’ psychological interpretation, the shofar blast was necessary to get the people to free their slaves, which were probably very hard for people to give up. Imagine a business owner who suddenly has to let a very dedicated worker go. The owner won’t be too excited to do so. This worker has made the company more successful, made the owner’s job easier, and is worth (even more than!) the salary he is being paid.
Most people don’t want to let such workers go. It is not so easy to do. The worker is literally part of the family.
The same is true with regards to one’s slaves, who might have been with the family for decades and now must be freed.
And so, it is explained, the shofar was blown to give everyone a little push to do what the Torah requires of them.
But even more than that, it reminded everyone that we are all in the same boat. We are in this together. Everyone must make this painful sacrifice, not just you.
The knowledge that everyone else is also experiencing the same financial and emotional sacrifice is a powerful psychological aid in arousing a person to do what he is required to do. It makes it that much easier to do what needs to be done.
We all have challenges. Some have money challenges, some have health challenges, and some have challenges with their children. That is life. Many times we think to ourselves that we’re the only one with problems and that no one else has challenges like we do. We look around at others and see that they are happy. They look fine. They act fine. But don’t be fooled.
We have to remember the sound of the “silent shofar” that isn’t sounded but should be sounded: Everyone is in the same boat. The next person may not be facing the same type of problems, but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that we are the only ones with problems.
Life is full of problems, but the fact that everyone has “challenges and problems” provides significant consolation.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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