Shabbat Shalom: The symbol of seven

May 23, 2024 | Article

By: Nelly Ben Tal

This week, we read Parashat Behar, a Torah portion rich with themes that resonate deeply within our hearts and lives. Behar centers on the concepts of freedom, rest, and renewal, encapsulated in the powerful mitzvot of the Shemittah (Sabbatical) and Yovel (Jubilee) years.

The number seven holds a profound significance in Jewish tradition, symbolizing completion, and sanctity. Just as Shabbat, the seventh day of the week, is a day of rest and spiritual renewal, so too the Shemittah year, every seventh year, provides a time for the land to rest. This commandment teaches us that freedom is not just a human right but extends to the land and all living things. In this portion, something even more compelling is the Yovel year. The Jubilee occurs after seven cycles of seven years, in the 50th year. During the Yovel, we experience the ultimate expression of freedom. All slaves are set free, and all land returns to its original owners – God or the world.

To be honest, I am not a professional Torah reader, but when I get the opportunity to read Torah, I strive to connect the dots, to find some connection that stands strong for me. Reading this Torah portion was hard for me; it felt like a punch in my stomach and, even more, in my heart.

It was suddenly clear to me that the symbol of the number seven has changed for me forever. I cannot even remember a time when the number seven was not directly attached to the massacre in my homeland on October 7th. It now reflects the opposite of freedom, emphasizing the extremely huge amount of life that was taken, families that were devastated, and the land that, for long hours, was occupied by evil.

This month marks seven months since that Black Saturday, seven cycles of the seventh day of the month, and we still have 125 of our people being held in captivity. Many people are still struggling to heal physically or mentally, striving to get their relatives back home, to reunite their families. Seven months of struggling to be grateful to be alive.

While we are still experiencing this horrible sorrow on a personal and national level, and inhumane things still happen daily, until the last of the hostages return home, we somehow must be grateful. We must stay human. We must notice the friends, neighbors, and community members who are struggling, offer them support, a kind hug, and help them remember what they are grateful for.

Our ultimate aspiration is to find true freedom and reasons to be grateful.

Shabbat Shalom!

Please email Nelly Ben Tal at with questions or comments.