Behar-Bechukotai – a double portion. What a fitting phrase for this week’s Torah portion. The Israelites are at Mount Sinai, and God is dictating to Moses the laws of the Sabbatical year. There is this notion that one gives the land one owns and works a deserved break every seventh year; and that whatever is naturally produced then becomes available to all. The double portion is that God then explains the Jubilee year: after 7 Sabbaticals, not only does all work on the land stop, but the slaves are free and all land that is owned in the area of the Holy Land is then returned to the original owners.
God also makes promises. God promises that if the Israelites maintain the commandments set forth, they will live in prosperity and security in their homeland. God made a second promise, that if the people of Israel abandon their covenant with God, they will be rebuked, exiled, persecuted, etc.
For our students, they are receiving a double portion right now. The students are so excited for summer vacation, which means Birthright Israel trips, internships, studying abroad, traveling, working, and so on. But they are also stressed out of their minds with studies, workload, tests and exams, etc. For many of our students it is time to prepare for finals, getting ready for graduation, still trying to figure out life.
As Hillel professionals, we spend a majority of our time trying to make University exciting and educational in a fun, casual, non-lecturing kind of way. We were all in their shoes at some point, and we remember what it feels like. Let us remember the promises which God made to us, and our students, and help them enjoy their upcoming Sabbaticals and support them in their prosperity.
And happy Bat Mitzvah anniversary to myself and Rabbi Jessica Lott!
Kayla Bogad, Director of Engagement and Ezra Fellow, Hillel at the University of Rochester