Greetings from Israel. I hope everyone is having a wonderful Pesach.
This week, outside of Israel, we will celebrate the seventh day of Pesach on Thursday night and Friday, and the eighth day on Shabbat. We have a special parasha for Shabbat, taken from Parasha Re’eh. In addition to reading this special parasha at the end of Pesach, it is also read at the end of Shavuot, and on Shemini Atzeret which comes at the end of Sukkot.
One reason the special parasha is read at the end of each of the three Festivals is that the parasha contains the mitzvah to observe the three Festivals, which are times of gladness and celebration.
This parasha also contains several other mitzvot.
One is the mitzvah of Shmitah. The mitzvah of Shmitah is a special commandment for Israel. Every seventh year is to be given over to a rest for the land itself. We may not plant or harvest, though we are permitted to gather food that grows naturally. These plants that grow freely are free to the poor and the landless, as well as to animals.
Also, in the Shmitah year masters free their “slaves” – servants who obligated themselves to stay with the master as a means of earning money. People who had borrowed money were released from their debts in the Shmitah year. God even commanded us to give loans to the poor when the seventh year approached and the loans would be forgiven: “Always open your hand to your brother, your poor, and your destitute in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:11.
Other mitzvot are the portions of food given to the Kohanim (priests) and the Levi’im who helped the Kohanim in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. All the other people received land in Israel to provide them with a living, but the Kohanim and Levi’im received no land because their work was in the service of everyone. Thus, the portions reserved for the Kohanim and Levi’im provided them with their living.
The parasha teaches me that, just as God gave us the three Festivals as times of thanksgiving and rejoicing – Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot – we are to spread reasons for thanksgiving and rejoicing to our neighbors who rely on us
These days we have many ways to help our neighbors – by contributing to organizations that support the community or by carrying out projects that assist others, such as a food drive or clothing collection. These are good ways to be Trustworthy and Kind, and to Help Other People at All Times.
Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,