Liberty and Justice: Scripture for July 1

Leviticus 25:1-12
The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land shall observe a sabbath for the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your unpruned vine: it shall be a year of complete rest for the land. You may eat what the land yields during its sabbath—you, your male and female slaves, your hired and your bound labourers who live with you; for your livestock also, and for the wild animals in your land all its yield shall be for food.

You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years. Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh month—on the day of atonement—you shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, or reap the aftergrowth, or harvest the unpruned vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you: you shall eat only what the field itself produces.

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One Response to Liberty and Justice: Scripture for July 1

  1. Paul Price says:

    “He who enters the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal of embezzling one’s own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man. Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate ourselves.”

    The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel.

    I worked for many years for a unionized grocery store. During the 1980’s with renewed attacks against unions, my union negotiated away the stores being closed on all summer, national holidays: Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. At first the stores closed early on those days so all employees could enjoy some part of the away from work (non-union management was nowhere to be seen), and then eventually, the stores were open normal hours. Customers were very few during the first couple years of being open and it was a business bust, but customer traffic increased and the holidays became like a busy weekend day. Holiday greetings during one’s shift could feel strained or plainly sarcastic between employees. Welcome to non-stop commerce and the world of millions of retail workers. Family values?

    From my perspective, Leviticus and Heschel are probably not speaking primarily from a sense of metaphor or allegory, but are advising actually to stop, halt, stand still, go home, just for a little while . . . just stop.

    But have I actually incorporated these physical lessons into my regular, weekly life? Perhaps briefly when I sit to meditate on as regular a basis as possible. But even when I am doing my regular walking, my brain is fully rambling through the day (experts are colonizing walking time for concerns about pace and it causes positive hormonal shifts that improve thinking). But a whole day, a half a day, per week, of honoring Leviticus or Heschel? Not in my life, but it seems like such a sane thing.

    Nonetheless, this Fourth of July I resolve to not shop at all, anywhere. I resolve to not “just stop by” and pick up some pickles for the picnic, the picnic will do without pickles. I will not walk into some store and buy that holiday, one-day only bargain. If I need milk and bread, I will buy them on the Third or wait until the Fifth.

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