This week’s Torah portion, behar (Leviticus 25:1-55, 26:1), discusses many items of social justice, including the issue of slavery. Slaves were an integral part of the economy in those days. While the Torah does not abolish slavery, it seeks to secure the right of slaves by law (Israelite slaves, that is; slaves of non-Israelite descent receive a much harsher treatment, unfortunately):
If your kinsman under you continues in straits and must give himself over to you, to not subject him to the treatment of a slave. He shall remain with you as a hired or bound laborer; he shall serve with you only until the Jubilee year. Then he and his children with him shall be free of your authority; he shall go back to his family and return to his ancestral holding. For they are my slaves, whom I freed from the land of Egypt, and may not give themselves over into slavery…. For it is to me that the Israelites are slaves: they are my slaves, whom I freed from the land of Egypt, I Y-H-V-H your God. (Leviticus 25:39-42, 55)
This week’s weekly Torah portion is vayikra (Leviticus 1 – 4). It is the first portion in the third book of the Torah, Leviticus (which in Hebrew is also called vayikra). The portion opens with Y-H-V-H calling out to Moses and instructing him about the ways of worship:
This week’s Torah portion, beshalach (Exodus 13:17 – 17:16), starts the narration of the People of Israel’s long sojourn through the desert. It is in this portion that we read about the parting of the Dead Sea as well as about the manna that was sent down from heaven by YHVH.
One story in particular is relevant to the life of a spiritual aspirant in our day an age. We are told that while in the desert, the People of Israel received direct guidance from God:
YHVH went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 21-22)