Parshat B’har • Leviticus 25:1-26:2

One of my most beloved movie heroes, Ferris Bueller, delivers the following line in the 1986 film which bears his name: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” What Ferris is speaking to in that particular scene could be summarized as justification for an epic day off from school. But what I really think Ferris is speaking to – and, what I believe makes that line so endearing, thirty years later – is the very essence and complicated nature of time.

At one moment, time slips away so quickly – the days pass, the years fly by, and before we know it the reflection staring back at us in the mirror is not the one we expect to see. And alternately, the movement of time can be a gift to those in mourning or recovery seeking distance from a particular episode in their lives; the phrases “just give it time” or “time is a great healer” come to mind.

Judaism is unabashedly obsessed with time and this week’s parsha highlights it. We read in Leviticus 25:8-10: “count off seven sabbath years – seven times seven years – so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land … it shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.

This portion of the parsha speaks to the yovel, or jubilee, occurring every forty-nine years in Jewish tradition. It is in this unique year that the world is to go right again – slaves to be freed, property to be returned. It’s a fresh start, a do-over, proclaimed by the same instrument – the shofar – which calls us to be mindful of so much during the Days of Awe. The medieval Torah scholar Nahmanides, also known as Ramban, explains the purpose of this jubilee year: “it should be a “bringing” for all of you, a year that brings you all back to your holdings and to your families … it shall be a jubilee, a year for bringing you home – and nothing but that.

With due respect to B’har, we need not wait forty-nine years for such an opportunity. Let us seize these precious moments and return “home” – whether that home be physical, emotional, spiritual, or within ourselves. Perhaps inspired by Ferris Bueller himself or by words of Torah brought to life, life does move pretty fast – let us remember to pause, look around, and to bring ourselves home.

Rabbi Jaclyn Cohen

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