A COUNTDOWN TO GODLINESS
By Rav Gabriel Lumbroso
Counting the omer is a countdown to godliness. Some Jewish teachers divide the seven weeks into seven main virtues, which are again divided into seven facets of that virtue. Here is how it works: 1. Chesed: Overflowing Loving kindness 2. G’vurah: Judgment, Justice, Rigor 3. Tiferet: Compassion, Beauty, Balance 4. Netzakh: Victory, Efficiency, Prevailing 5. Hod: Glory, Splendor 6. Y’sod: Foundation, Intimacy, Generativity 7. Malkhut: Majesty, God’s Earthly Realm
FROM FIRST FRUITS TO SHAVUOT It makes sense. The message Yeshua gave us was, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." This message reflects Yochanan the Immerser's words, as well as those that he borrowed from Isaiah, "Prepare the way of Adonai in the wilderness! Make a level highway in the desert for our God!" (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 4:17; Matthew 3:2; Mat 3-:3;)! With this message, along with that of waiting for the Comforter (Acts 1:4), the time between the resurrection on the 16th of Nissan and Shavuot, 49 days later, represents a time of learning to live in “sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8). This transformation into righteousness does not happen by Yeshua waving a magic wand that makes us all good again, but it happens by us learning and applying the lifestyle of the Torah in our lives, and in our case, learning and applying the teachings of Yeshua concerning the Torah in our lives. HASHEM'S ECONOMIC SYSTEM The parasha readings during the time of the counting of the omer give us plenty of material for reflection and cleansing. In Acharei Mot, we learn about both the seriousness and, the awesomeness of God and about Yom HaKippurim. In Kedoshim, we learned about what sets us apart from the world. In Emor, we learned about the Shabbat and festivals that set us apart, and in Behar, we learn about HaShem's economic system, the way finances are handled in the Kingdom of Heaven as opposed to the way they are handled in the world. This economic system is not just the way finances ought to run in his kingdom of the future, but also the way they ought to run here on earth today. THE LITMUS TEST OF RELIGIOUS SPIRITUALITY After we have been taught in the former parasha about ritual and ceremonial holiness/ or set-apartness, we are now taught about financial holiness/set-apartness. HaShem is concerned with how we eat, live, and work, but he is also concerned about how we handle money. Money really hits where it hurts, and I would dare say the handling of money reveals much more about one’s spirituality than any other religious observance. Leviticus 25 teaches us about sabbatical years and jubilee. These things were all about business, income, and compassion for the less- fortunate. Sabbatical years and jubilees were “good news” for the poor, and if I were to say this expression in Hebrew, I would not use הודעה תובה/oda’aoda’a tTova, for the expression “good news”, but בשורה/ Besora, to say which has to do with the Good News of the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth. IT TAKES FAITH TO OBEY! Sad to say, HaShem's economic system was never totally adopted. It even caused Judea to go into exile for 70 years. For seventy Sabbatical years, the children of Israel had not obeyed the commandment to let the Land fallow every seven years, so HaShem sent the people away so the land could enjoy her Shabbats. (2. Chronicles 36:21; Jeremiah 25:11) Until this day, I do not know any politician who would be voted in were he to impose not only that people take off all the 70 shabbats of the year, but that every seven years, farmers would not sow their fields (Leviticus 25:4-7) and that all banks would forgive debts, not even allowing them to not process a loan on the fifth year, knowing that the debt would probably be cancelled before full payment. I don't know that businesses would agree to forgive debts and pay their employees nightly. Also, what real estate company would return the land that he bought from someone who sold it under financial duress? (Leviticus 25)? It is all basically bad for business, but it shows us what importance HaShem gives to business. I heard a rabbi teach one time that if you were to properly follow the laws of tithing, sabbatical years, and jubilee, you could never get too rich. Just as it takes faith to stop working on Saturday (especially if you work in retail), it takes faith for the farmer to not sow his field for one year. It means that on the sixth year, he must save for the seventh year, he must have seed corn left to sow at the end of the sabbatical year, and something to eat on the eighth. It also meant that every fifty years, he needed to save all that plus for one more year, as the jubilee year followed the sabbatical year. THE ECONOMIC SYSTEM OF THE KINGDOM Leviticus 25 starts with the commandments concerning the sabbatical years, and then continues with caring for the poor. At the end of the chapter, the poor can be rescued regardless of the year, through the means of the kinsman redeemer. Throughout the millennia, as man has governed the earth by applying a variety of different economic systems and models, none of these systems and models have ever succeeded in ensuring every one of its citizens maintains even the basic necessities of living to everybody. There has always been a disparity between rich and poor, as well as people who live in poverty—poverty not caused by natural causes, but by the selfish political and economic systems of man. My question is, why don't we try HaShem's system? What I see in the economic system of Leviticus 25 is a system where occasionally, the whole economic system reboots, thus providing a way to level the plane field for everybody, thus allowing the poor to catch up. In this system, the rich never get too rich so he forgets God, and the poor never gets too poor so he curses his creator. Two things I have asked of you; don’t deny me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lies. Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with the food that is needful for me; lest I be full, deny you, and say, ‘Who is Adonai?’ or lest I be poor, and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9) IT’S NOT AN INDIVIDUAL RACE; IT’S A TEAM ACCOMPLISHMENT! The economy of the kingdom of heaven is not like a race where some people just make it to prosperity while leaving others behind, but a race where those ahead take the time to let the others catch up, and even help them. The movie, “An Officer and a Gentlemen” has a scene that illustrates this point very well. The setting is the Marine academy. One young and macho candidate powers through training the way he has done everything else in life—caring only for himself and his own success. Then, in an obstacle racing exercise, he is partnered with a female trainee whom he leaves in the dust when she is unable to climb a fence. After a series of “hard knocks,” he has a change of attitude. The next time he is partnered with that same trainee, he forfeits achieving his own perfect score, and instead stops to assist her in climbing over the fence. THE LAW OF THE LAND IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD When Yeshua comes, he will impose that we live by the ways of the sabbatical years and the jubilees. It will be the law of the Land. We will finally learn that a man’s life does not consist in what he owns (Luke 12:15). As Jim Elliot said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” We will then follow Yeshua’s exhortation: “Don’t work for the food which perishes, but for the food which remains to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For God the Father has sealed him.” John 6:27 If we lived by the economic principles of Leviticus 25 today, we would experience a foretaste of the Kingdom of God right here and now! WHEN THE TIME COMES, MAY WE BE READY TO RECEIVE THE ANOINTED
AND PROCLAIMED KING, WHO WILL RULE THE WORLD ACCORDING TO THE JUSTICE OF HASMEM, AND NOT ACCORDING TO THE JUSTICE OF MAN!