Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Parashat B’har: give and receive

Our weekly Portion opens with something astonishing. It says (Leviticus 25:2) that the Land will observe Shabbat (Shmita). This should immediately lead to the following questions: 1. What is Shmita doing so prominently in the Book of Leviticus, that deals with the Temple service and the Priests? 2. Why doesn’t it say anywhere in the Torah that the Seventh Day rested, but it does say that the Land rested? 3. What relevance does this have today?

The difference between the Day of Rest and the Land at Rest is that the first is holiness in Time, the second is holiness of Space. That explains immediately why this is notably discussed in Leviticus, which deals with holiness of place.

What is the difference between Place and Time? One can become owner of the former, not of the latter. One can buy a piece of land and put a fence around it with a notice revealing the owner and directions like: don’t enter, don’t touch. That is impossible with time. One could say “I gave of my time” and “I can do in my own time as I want” but one can’t say: I bought next week’s Thursday, and I decide who can enter or not. What does this Land ownership matter?

G^d soon in our Portion (Leviticus¬† 25:23) tells us: the Land is Mine – He is the owner. True, He promised it to our Forefathers (Genesis 12:7, 15:18, 28:4, 35:12, 50:24, Exodus 6:8, 6:10, Leviticus 26:42, 26:25, Numbers 11:12, Deuteronomy 1:8, 1:35, 6:10, 7:13, 8:1, 11:9, 30:5, 34:4, Joshua 1:6, 21:43, 1 Kings 8:40, 2 Kings 21:8, Ezekiel 20:42, 33:24, 36:28, 37:25, 47:14, 2 Chronicles 20:7, 33:8, Isaiah 14:1, Jeremiah 7:7, 11:5, 24:10, 25:5, 30:3, 32:22, Nehemiah 9:36) but He gave us it to work it and to harvest, to sell it and to buy it, and to live in it, as is hinted in (Leviticus 25:38): “I am G^d, the Eternal One of yours, Who took you out of the Land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be for all of you as your Eternal One.” Don’t read: “to give you the land of Canaan, to be for all of you as your Eternal One” but “to give you the land of Canaan to be.” If you want to be possessive, you can have Me, “for all of you as your Eternal One” – I won’t get hurt.

The Land is ours to use, not abuse. We need to behave as proper guests because the holy Land has needs, rules and sensitivities. It itself keeps Shmita. If we don’t join her in that, we violate her – and she will spit us out (Leviticus 18:25, 18:28, 20:22, 26:43, Sayings of the Fathers 5:11-12!). How can we ascribe human qualities like sensitivity and regurgitation to something as subhuman as the Land? The same way as the stomach, though having no brain, knows when to empty out poison: it’s built-in wisdom.

This is not so different from a Jewish man who marries a Jewish woman. Now he can be in her house (not for nothing, the Hebrew word for Land is female), but not to trash it, boss her around or exploit her. She has needs, rules and sensitivities. This is a very important training for married men: to give, give and give. Life is not give and take – it’s give and receive.

And women should just receive, receive, receive? Yes, they should, but most women, either by Nature or as second nature from their upbringing are givers already. Often their giving is too humble and hidden to notice for beginning selfish self-centered chauvinist self-entitled husbands. Jewish Law acknowledges and corrects that.

And that is not the end of this story. As soon as the children come, proper parents will both be giving beyond their means. The baby has unsubstitutable needs and your headache should be put on the back burner (down with the pacifiers!). I often say to new parents: And you thought that you knew the meaning of the word “tired.”

When children have their needs met (not to be confused with withholding responsibilities and not saying “no” when you should, which is truly spoiling them), then they will grow up to be people who in turn are ready to give to their children. Just as Rabbi E.E. Dessler says: The only thing the Torah wants to do is to turn us from babies who need to receive everything, into grown-ups who are capable of giving. And not just our babies need us. The whole world has unmet needs and is waiting for our generosity.

The last Lubavitcher Rebbe clearly had decided that he was on earth just to give. So he would not have any of it when I met him and blessed him. He blessed me numerous times and then explained: true receiving comes from giving.

Written in honor of the birth of the firstborn of my firstborn.

About the Author
The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Dutch Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo and Rav Zev Leff. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science, Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Many people can't understand or like him because he has such a wide vision that he never fits any specialist's box. But that exactly what others love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. * He likes doing age-appropriate and age-inappropriate things and looks forward to getting to know his timeless mature out-of-the-box soul mate. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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