This week, we read the double parashot of Behar and Behukatai.
Last week, in Parashat Emor, we were given the mitzvah of counting the Omer – seven weeks (49 days) between the second night of Passover and the festival of Shavuot on the fiftieth day. The counting of the Omer marks the period from the barley harvest to the wheat harvest and also the time from the Exodus to the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Now, in Parashat Behar, we are given another period of 49 culminating in a celebration on the 50th – but these are years, not weeks.
The fiftieth year is the Yovel, or Jubilee. Every seventh year, called Shmita, debts were forgiven, servants went free and the land lay fallow – crops could be harvested but not cultivated and those in need were permitted to take crops from the fields. In the Yovel, even servants who agreed to stay more than the usual six years had to be freed and land that had been sold must be returned to its original owner. These rules remind us that God created everything in the world, and our rights over the land and the work of others is only temporary.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks sees in the two periods of 49 an important lesson. Most people will count days, as with the Counting of the Omer. Leaders, however, count in years, like the Yovel. He quotes the Talmud: Ben Zoma says, “Who is wise? One who foresees the consequences.” (Tamid 32a) Instead of thinking about the results of one’s day-to-day activities, the leader must have a vision of what is to be done today to prepare for the future.
All of us think about our future, and we can each be the leader of our future. First, find worthwhile goals like getting a good education and keeping fit and healthy. Then do things today that will help you reach your goal. This way you will Be Prepared for the future.
Rabbi Sacks’ discussion can be found in his book, Lessons in Leadership: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible, in the chapter on Parashat Behar.