Our guest this week is Rabbi David Greenstein, leader of the Shomrei Emuna congregation in Montclair, NJ. Before coming to Shomrei Emunah in 2009, Rabbi Greenstein was president and rabbinic dean of the Academy for Jewish Religion, a pluralistic rabbinic seminary in Riverdale, N.Y. He was the spiritual leader of the New Hyde Park Jewish Community Center, on Long Island, from 1993 until its merger in August 2004 with Shelter Rock Jewish Center. At Shelter Rock, he founded and directed the Shiluv Project, an initiative devoted to developing programs and resources for integrated Jewish living. Together with his wife Zelda, Rabbi Greenstein helped start Project Ezra, a social-service program that serves poor Jewish elderly residents of the Lower East Side of New York. The two are also founding members of the Fort Greene Jewish Family Cooperative in Brooklyn, and of what is now the Hannah Senesh Community Day School, a non-denominational Jewish day school in downtown Brooklyn.
This week’s Torah portion – Parashat Behar/Bechukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34) – features regulations concerning Sabbatical and Jubilee years, commerce, and the redemption of slaves. It also contains a description of the rewards for observing God’s commandments and the series of punishments that will face Israel if they choose to disregard them. The Torah then discusses different types of gifts given to the Temple, and the animal tithe. Our discussion focuses on the importance of and meaning behind the Shmita and the Yovel – the agricultural sabbatical and the Jubilee year.