Behar means “On the Mountain”, which is how this portion begins. God speaks to Moses on Mount Sinai, telling him to speak to the Israelites and teach them about the Laws of the Sabbatical Year.

For six years the people will be able to plant and harvest their fields. However, every seven years this work must cease. No work will be permitted on the land. It’s considered a sabbath of complete rest for the land. However, the people will be permitted to gather and share whatever their land produces. God promises that there will be an ample harvest the year before the sabbatical year, so no one will go hungry.

The Israelites are told to count seven times seven years – a total of forty-nine years. The fiftieth year will be marked on Yom Kippur with a blast of the shofar, and the year will be considered a Jubilee, a year of release for the land and its inhabitants. What this means is that the land will lie fallow, property reverts to its original owner, and slaves are freed. Exceptions are made for houses in walled cities – in these cases they are only to be redeemed (revert to the original owner) for one year.

The portion ends with rules against fraud and about how property is to be sold.

Torah Portion in English

1) The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: 2) Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a sabbath of the Lord. 3) Six years you may sow your field and six years you may prune your vineyard and gather in the yield. 4) But in the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath of the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5) You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your untrimmed vines; it shall be a year of complete rest for the land. 6) But you may eat whatever the land during its sabbath will produce—you, your male and female slaves, the hired and bound laborers who live with you, 7) your cattle and the beasts in your land may eat all its yield.

8) You shall count off seven weeks of years—seven times seven years—so that the period of seven weeks of years gives you a total of forty-nine years. 9) Then you shall sound the horn loud; in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month—the Day of Atonement—you shall have the horn sounded throughout your land 10) and you shall hallow the fiftieth year. You shall proclaim release throughout the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: each of you shall return to his holding and each of you shall return to his family. 11) That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, neither shall you reap the aftergrowth or harvest the untrimmed vines, 12) for it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you: you may only eat the growth direct from the field. 13) In this year of jubilee, each of you shall return to his holding.

Getting to Know my Parasha

What Does my Parasha Say?

  1. What mountain is being referred to here?
  2. What land are the Children of Israel about to enter?
  3. How often does the sabbatical year happen?
  4. What happens every seventh year?
  5. What happens every 50th year?
  6. What is fraud?