The New Shul

Parshat B’har

This week’s parashah, B’har, teaches about the Yovel, the Jubilee, which occurred every 50th year in biblical Israel. During the Yovel, all Israelites who had lost their land due to bankruptcy during the previous 49 years were permitted to reclaim their ancestral holdings. The Yovel was a year of amnesty, of liberation from the past.

The countdown of 49 years to the Yovel reminds us of another countdown that we are engaged in right now, the counting of the omer, the 49 days from Pesah to Shavuot. The counting of the omer differs from the countdown to the Yovel in that we count days, not years. It differs also in that its endpoint is not liberation but commandedness, not amnesty but the giving of the Torah. Instead of pointing to freedom from the past, this countdown points to the acceptance of obligation.

But perhaps the two endpoints are not so different after all. Freedom, after all, is really freedom only if we use it to make choices and commitments. That is why the story of our liberation from Egypt culminates in our acceptance of the Torah. Only at Mount Sinai, when we used our newfound freedom, did we truly know that we had it.

In our lives too, authentic commitment is an act of self-liberation. When we rededicate ourselves to the priorities that truly matter to us, when we live according to our deepest values, we free ourselves from all the false priorities that tend to clutter up our lives. We disentangle ourselves from the superficial, trivial values that we never really chose to make our own, that make us feel like slaves.

As our ancestors found freedom in a life of mitzvah, may we do the same.

  • The New Shul’s Shabbat services are on Friday evenings from 6 to 7 pm, and on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 12 noon. This Shabbat, May 25, we will celebrate the bar mitzvah of Garric Gordon. The kiddush-lunch will be sponsored by Marc Gordon and Jody Cohen Gordon.
  • Childcare is available on Shabbat mornings from 10 am to noon.
  • Minyanim during the week are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, and on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7 pm.
  • The festival of Shavuot begins on Saturday night June 8. Please join us for our all-night Tikkun Leil Shavuot, from 9:30 pm until dawn on Sunday morning. Our service for the first day of Shavuot, Sunday morning June 9, will begin at 4:30 am.
  • Our service for the second day of Shavuot, Monday June 10, will begin at 9 am, and will include Yizkor, the memorial prayer.