My House, My Rules – Parshat Behar 5779

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It seems to be happening more and more often. I open my mouth to say something to my children, and out comes something sounding exactly like one of my parents from when I was younger. Most often it is something to the effect of “My house, my rules,” and is usually in response to a child trying to test my limits or question a parenting decision. It’s hard for children to understand the truth, which is that as parents we make the rules not for the sake of having rules (although structure itself is always important), but for safety, security, and peace in our home. Rules are meant to bring a sense of order to the chaos and manage expectations for everyone and everything.

Teachers use this logic when setting classroom rules, and the same goes for laws at every level of governance. We live in a society in which rules, though they sometimes get broken, are imperative to setting order and guidelines for behavior. As we read Parshat Behar this week, the same holds true in the Torah. Behar discusses the preventative measures God has put in place for our land and our society to stay fertile and viable. It then continues with rules and obligations for inhabiting the land of Israel.

Ultimately, this week’s parshah focuses on God’s “house” and the expectations for living in that land. We are required to take care of the land, to share with one another, and to be truthful and compassionate. This land is not ours to own, rather it’s on loan to us from God. Chapter 25, verse 23 reminds us, “You are but strangers resident with me.”

The land of Israel belongs to God, the earth as a whole is a creation of God, and we are instructed to take care of this precious gift on loan to us. With God frequently playing the role of symbolic parent, you could think of this as “God’s house, God’s rules.” The rules don’t always make sense, and some of them may need adapting over time, but they were put into place for a reason. It’s our job to use this framework to maintain shalom bayit (peace in the home) in this giant home of ours.

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