Parshat Behar/Bechukotai Highlights

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First Portion:

  • In most democratic countries, there is a clear distinction on many issues between church and state. However, the church (religion in general) and the business world, though don’t exactly mesh very well and often collide. Such is the case in this week’s parshiot where the belief of G-d is tested big time by the gurus of the economic world who give us sound advice.
  • In this week’s parshiot, the Torah introduces the concept of shmita, where man works the land for six years and leaves it barren on the seventh. If one notices, there is a pattern that the Torah develops. G-d created the world in six days and rests on the seventh. So too, man works for six days and rests on the Sabbath. Seven is the official number representing the world. There are seven days in a week; there are seven year cycles leading to the fiftieth year Jubilee; the world is divided into seven regions. There are some opinions that the Jewish calendar starts with the month of Nissan; therefore the seventh month will come out to be Tishrei, the month that the world was created and each year is judged.
  • During shmita, all private ownership of the produce of fields and vineyards are nullified. The crops become free for all. The proprietor may eat of the produce of his field like any stranger, and bring home for one day’s meal, but he cannot harvest the entire crop, for that would signify his claim to ownership. It is a year of rest from farm labor. Only a bare minimum care is permitted to prevent plants from dying. All the fruits and vegetables which grew in the shmita year possess kedusha; therefore it may not be sold commercially, and may not be exported to a country outside Israel. All of the above mentioned laws are in effect today.
  • Yovel – the jubilee – having counted seven cycles of the shmita years, the Sanhedrin proclaimed the 50th year holy as a yovel year. The yovel was characterized by three obligations placed upon the Jewish nation. 1.) No farming just like shmita. Every 49th year, therefore, there were two successive years of rest for the land. 2.) Unconditional freedom for any Hebrew slave 3.) The return of all fields to their original owners, even if the fields were passed through several hands.

Second Portion:

  • G-d promises that he will give blessings upon one who does not work the fields in the shmita year. He will provide for him on that year and the years following as well. Therefore, if one works his field during the shmita year, he demonstrates a lack of trust in G-d. Similarly, if a Jew works on Shabbat, he apparently lacks the conviction that G-d will provide him a livelihood.

Third Portion:

  • We know a Torah commandment is a lot more stringent than a rabbinical one. Here we see the importance to help a fellow Jew out in their time of need. It says “if your brother becomes improvised, you shall strengthen him.” It’s not just kindness one does to his fellow, but even more so, he has an obligation to put ‘his brother’, a more intimate term then just fellow, on his feet…..and “you shall strengthen him”. No matter how low his fellow brother sinks, it’s a requirement and an obligation to help. We often learn one should be makdim b’e mitzvah hasten – one should have zeal in conducting a commandment. We learn one should have foresight in detecting his brother’s financial situation before reaching the so-called ‘alarming level’ and acting fast in strengthening him.

Fourth Portion:

  • We begin the second of the two parshiot, Bechukotai, where G-d promises, if you will follow my laws, I will shower you with blessings from ‘alef ad taf.’ My blessing will be such that it will encompass the entire alphabet, from the beginning until the end. This is hinted at the beginning of the Parsha, which is the beginning of the brachot; it starts with ‘Im bechukotai’. ‘Im’ starts with the letter alef and the end of the brachot ends with ‘komemut’ (26:13). The last letter of komemut is taf which is the last letter of the alef-bet.

Fifth Portion:

  • G-d uses the word ‘hithalachti’ – I will walk with you. It’s a term often used when He wants to give his bracha in abundance. Similarly, the term was used to Yeravam ben Nevad, who was a potential star gone astray. G-d approached him and urged him not to give up the tremendous potential he possessed, repent!! “Come walk with me and Ben Yishai (referring to King David) and we will take a stroll in Gan Eden.”
  • If you do not listen to me…..This is one of a few parshiot that has klalot – curses.
  • In many communities, either the Rabbi, chazzan, or even the gabbai, go up to the Torah for this and other undesirable aliya, because no want wants it. As compensation, they also get the prime real estate like Az Yashir, ten commandments, Yevarech Avarechecha.

Sixth Portion:

  • When in danger, it is considered proper for a Jew to pledge money for tzedakah for “charity rescues from death” (mishlai 10:2). After the reproof, which speaks of critical times, the Torah describes how a Jew should act if, in such critical circumstances, he promises to give money to charity. One type of charity is donating the value of someone’s life to G-d. G-d regards the donation of the monetary value of a person as if his life has been offered, saying “if you donate the value of a person, I will consider it as though you sacrificed him.”

Seventh Portion:

  • We conclude the sefer – book of Vayikra – with Chazak Chazak Ve’nitchazek.

Credit to:Rabbi Avi Matmon