Parshat Behar: Living life as the blessing of goodness (II)

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God.” (Leviticus 25:38)

This verse is preceded by commandments related to living in the Promised Land, many about how we must treat each other. In essence, the verse is a culmination or conclusion of the reason God brought us up from slavery in Egypt, and also shows us the contrast between two very different places. Thus we assimilate that the land of slavery is one state of consciousness opposed to the land of true freedom.

We also grasp from the verse that for the Jewish people having a God is possessing an ethical ruling principle by which we conduct our lives, as individuals and as a nation. Interestingly, we notice that the verse has most of the words in the first commandment of the Decalogue, with the omission of “house of slavery” in reference to Egypt and the addition of “to give you the land of Canaan”, and “to be your God”.

This invites us to reflect more in what was added than in what was omitted. The statement is clear and direct. Our Creator took us forth up from the lowest of all human conditions to the highest of all possible approaches to life, in order to live according to the highest ethical principles implied in the commandments this God wants us to live with, by and for. These also reflect the ways and attributes by which He relates to His creation, as sufficiently pointed out from the beginning to the end of the Torah.

“The children of Israel are servants to Me, they are My servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your [their] God.” (25:55)

We have mentioned often that the Torah defines the identity of the Jewish people, and here we understand it as a life with the sole purpose of serving the principles mentioned above, which sustain and secure living in the moral freedom they offer. In practical terms, being servants of God means serving goodness as the essential meaning of the Promised Land.

We have said that goodness is what makes life sacred, and thus we understand that the land of Israel is the “holy land”. God brought us up to the highest level of consciousness that goodness is, in order to conduct all aspects of life for the purpose of goodness. Hence we realize that living a life of goodness requires living it as the ruling ethical principle God instructs us to do His will.

“Ye shall make you no idols, neither shall ye rear you up a graven image, or a pillar, neither shall ye place any figured stone in your land, to bow down unto it; for I am the Lord your God.” (26:1)

Again, the Torah instructs by constantly showing the contrasts for us to see the distinction between right and wrong, true and false, positive and negative, et al. The opposite of the goodness God wants us to live in its total freedom are the self-centered attitudes we forge and build as the idols we create for ourselves, that take us back down to the slavery of addictions, attachments and obsessions.

The choices are in the differences these make in our consciousness. Either we live with, in, by and for the positive and constructive principles in which goodness is sustained and built, or in the futility and destructiveness of negative fantasies and illusions derived from and egotistic approach to life.

Thus we understand the many commandments mentioned in this portion of the Torah, in reference to how we relate with our fellow man with the goodness of what life is about; for our true freedom is the goodness God wants us to serve His will.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Zefat.
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