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Shabbat Shalom

 Parsha Behar - The Great Reboot by Dan Cohen

It seems like I have democracy and governance in my brain. Last week and this week, I’ve read the parsha through the lens of how we join together as people to form a society.

Our expectations of each other in a functioning democracy are unclear these days. In the U.S. and Israel, our leaders too often prioritize self-interest over national interest. Participants often overprioritize their interests above their fellow men. Yet the notion of the Yovel year, the Jubilee Year, allows us to think, examine, and reset our relationship with each other and our chosen leaders.

The parshiot give us some guidance. In Chapter 25, Verse 9, we read, “You shall proclaim [with] the shofar blasts, in the seventh month, on the tenth of the month; on the Day of Atonement, you shall sound the shofar throughout your land.”

Rav Hirsch makes the following point.  Yom Kippur is a day of moral rebirth. Yovel, the Jubilee Year, is for social rebirth. 

In the Jubilee year, slaves are officially free on Rosh Hashanah, but they are not released until Yom Kippur. When the shofar sounds on Yom Kippur, the gift of liberation is official.

Why the delay?  Enslaved people were supposed to celebrate and enjoy the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, who were no longer subservient but still in their master's home. They eat and drink with their masters with crowns on their heads, he adds. Only when the shofar sounds can they go free

This is a reminder that resetting social expectations takes work and the agreement of all parties. Imagine the mindset of an enslaver serving food and drink to his former slave. This is a great model for adjusting our assumptions to welcome others as partners in forming a viable and resilient nation.

In the following verse, Chapter 25, Verse 10, we read, “And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim freedom [for slaves] throughout the land for all who live on it. It shall be a Jubilee for you, and you shall return, each man to his property, and you shall return, each man to his family.”

Hirsch focuses on the word Dror, which many translate as freedom. Looking at the word’s origins, he identifies various meanings. One emphasizes the purity of the material that goes into making something. Another is a bird that cannot be tamed and retains its freedom. That bird follows its most natural tendencies.

He then explains that we can learn from the Torah's use of the word Dror that “persons and property revert to where they naturally belong—a man to his family, and property reverts by right to its original ownership.”

Yovel restores the legal dignity of a person, which he says is the precise definition of freedom (or I also read: liberty)

Much later in his analysis, Hirsch concludes that the Yovel year, signified by the shofar on Yom Kippur of the Jubilee Year, brings about the nation's social and political rebirth. It has a healing and therapeutic effect on both internal and external affairs. 

He says it is a gift from Hashem. Hashem's grace restores our social and political freedom. Once applied, Israel can be a shining example to the nations and encourage them to learn Gd's ways. This is the only path to ensuring justice, freedom, and everlasting peace on earth. 

This is a tall order for each of you as participants in a thriving and tumultuous democracy.  In Israel, social and political inequality is rampant. Economic and religious disparities divide one from another. Society seems hell-bent on finding ways to divide us rather than unite us.

Into this mix, you will emerge as adults. Hirsch shows us two lessons that can guide you.

We must remember that all of us, slave and master, rich and poor, man or woman, are made in Gd's image and deserve all the rights that go with that.  We must also remember that the goal is to help each other realize the full extent of our liberty derived from our most natural state and make space to ensure others can fulfill theirs. When we can be fully ourselves, we are free to serve Hashem to the best of our abilities.

BMC-I chairman, Lalam, and Pastor Oomen of Operation Exodus.

(May 22, 2024) Following an invitation from the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, the BMC-I, chairman, Lalam Hangshing, attended Israel's 76th Independence Day celebration at the Grand Hotel, in the capital's neighborhood of Vasant Kunj. Hangshing breifly spoke with the ambassador, H. E. Mr. Naor Gilon who remarked that he remembered the meeting with him earlier. It was attended by about 400 people, diplomats, officials, including India's Foreign Secretary, Mr. Vinay M. Kwatra. Varieties of food, which covered every corner of the Indian peninsula, were served along with very noticeable Mediterranean picks. It was a sumptuous celebration, albeit a bit crowded, according to some sources. In attendance, too was Pastor Abe Thomas Oomen and his family, a long time supporter of Israel as well as the B'nei Menashe. Lalam and Pastor Oomen took time to have a conversation and pose for a photo. Pastor Oomen is the chairman of Operation Exodus. It may be recalled that following the covid19 and more recently the ethnic conflagration, it was Pastor Oomen and his organization, Operation Exodus who came to the aid of the B'nei Menashe bringing food, relief and even clothing and hygiene. The ceremony was also marked by the solemn remembrance of the 130 hostages still held in Gaza by Hamas. Good relationships, trade and affinity for Israel made the ceremony a success on a grand scale.

India's Foreign Secretary, Mr. Vinay M. Kwatra and Israel's ambassador, Naor Gilon at the celebration.

Dr. Josiah Mate as an undergraduate student at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences.

(May 21, 2024) In a result that was declared by the Manipur Public Service Commission recently, our very own B'nei Menashe candidate, Dr. Josiah Mate secured the 74th rank out of 124 candidates declared successful. Our newsletter reliably learnt that he is slated to join the prestigious Manipur Health Service very soon at Singat, an hour's drive south of Lamka. The examinations had been held in 2021 but due to disruptions by covid19 and subsequently by the ethnic conflagration lately, results were delayed. He is the second child of Hezekiah and Chingpi Mate (he has two sisters, one older and the other, younger). They are residents of Tuibuong, Lamka and members of the Beit Shalom congregation there. Dr. Mate is a graduate of Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, Ranchi, capital of the northern Indian state of Jharkhand. He completed his studies in 2017 and proceeded for an internship. Till the time of the declaration of the results he was working as a contract doctor at a dispensary at Behiang, a village on the southern border with Myanmar. It might be of interest for all that the hereditary chiefs of Behiang belong to the B'nei Menashe community with several members of their family having lived in Israel for a long time now.

We are elated at the exemplary success of Dr. Josiah Mate and hope it will serve as an example for all B'nei Menashe youths in India as well as Israel. We wish him our very best as he takes off on this journey with blessings all of the B'nei Menashe. Mazal Tov!

Dr. Mate and his family.


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