Tenants on Earth
This week we finish the book of Leviticus by reading the last two Parashiot, and thus concluding the so-called holiness code; a section that goes from chapter 19 to the end of the book.
Almost every year, these two Parashiot, Behar and Bechukotai come together, as if they were related in some way, even when that relationship is not so visible.
The main theme of Parashat Behar is the rest of the Earth. The laws of Sh’mitah (the Sabbatical year) and Yovel (Jubilee) come to raise to increase our awareness to respect and consider the Earth, not only as our home, but also as a source of life.
As I read these ancient verses I cannot help but think of the way in which we despise and denigrate our common home.
Global warming is making an entire species disappear that maintain an essential ecological balance for our lives. The ozone layer that once protected us now exposes us, making us vulnerable. The air we breathe is polluted by toxic gases. The jungles that were true lungs of the planet, are being decimated to produce crops and earn money, while the world gets sick. The water we drink is full of heavy minerals, which the amounts of chlorine we consume when drinking the minerals cannot be neutralized. Industrial waste is dumped into rivers and seas.
We consume foods full of chemicals, pesticides, hormones and poisons that we do not realize up to what point they threaten our health. We mercilessly mistreat animals because we prioritize economy and production on a large scale.
If there is something that the pandemic we are experiencing deepens, it is the urgent need to become aware, and to face a new relationship of respect and honor our world, and within it, ourselves. The Earth needs it’s own Shabbat, because as it says in the Torah, we are not owners. We are only passenger tenants.
In the second Parsha, Bechukotai, we encounter one of the two moments in the Torah, where we are crudely warned about the consequences of our actions.
If you do this, the Torah says, this is what will happen to you.
It seems so obvious that many times we don’t even pay attention to it. But the basic premise of biblical ethics is in the fact that every decision has its consequences.
Personally, at our home, we have long reinterpreted the concept of “Kashrut” in a way that, in my opinion, is closer to the original idea of having respect to God´s Creation and asking permission for what we are going to consume. We are going to talk about this in one of the next adult education classes.
The idea is to understand that “Kosher” means “apt”.
Is it suitable to consume products that in their production despises life, that fill us with poison or that include child or slave labor of low paid immigrants? Of course, not!
And that also cost more because of the business of the Kashrut certificates.
With the background of COVID-19, our decisions are not just a fad, a politically correct statement, or even just an ethical, religious, or theological stance. We can think, like Spinoza, that God and Nature are a single Unit, or we can believe, like Maimonides, in a God who is pure reason and transcends it. In any case, the equation does not change in practice.
For me, “tachles”, that is, to get to the point, in practice, has to do with our survival, our own existence, and our consciousness as divine creatures.
The relationship between the two parashiot is very clear. We do not control the threads of history. We do not decide on natural disasters, earthquakes and tsunamis, floods and hurricanes, diseases and epidemics, but we are a decisive factor in all these processes, we influence them, and our attitudes, priorities and decisions have their consequences, for better and for worse.
“Veha´aretz lo timacher litzmitut, ki Li Ha´aretz”
The Earth cannot be sold forever, because the Earth is mine, ” says God.
Hopefully we can understand it and know how to make the right decisions that lead us to recreate a better world and a better life.