A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen
Parshat Behar-Bechukotai 14 Iyar 5764 May 15, 2004 Vol.13 No.32
In This Issue:
Mrs. Rochi Lerner
Halacha of the Week
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
by Rabbi Ezra Weiner
As Hashem is about to conclude the Tochacha in Parshat Bechukotai, He assures us that He will Remember the covenant that He made with the Avot: "Vezacharti Et Beriti Yaakov Ve'af Et Beriti Yitzchak Ve'af Et Beriti Avraham Ezkor, Vehaaretz Ezkor" (26:42). The obvious difficulty with this Pasuk is that Yaakov is mentioned first, followed by Yitzchak and Avraham. What does Hashem wish to convey by promising that He will first remember Yaakov's covenant, only afterward remembering the covenants made with Yitzchak and Avraham?
Rav Hirsch suggests that the order of the Avot in this Pasuk is most appropriate, for after all, the purpose of this Pasuk is to offer a glimmer of hope for the Jewish people, which has just heard that its future will at times be filled with suffering. It does so by reminding us of how God's presence works. It is not difficult to see that God's presence is with us when we are respected and admired by the nations of the world. Avraham was afforded the dignified title of Nesi Elokim (Bereshit 23:6) by the Bnei Chet. This brought honor to Hashem and spread the spirit of monotheism.
God's hand in the events that surrounded Yitzchak's life was not as apparent. Yitzchak was not respected by the Pelishtim, with whom he came in contact quite frequently. There was a sense of jealousy and hatred that quite obviously did not bring honor to God and His newly founded people. Nevertheless, Yitzchak was wealthy and did not experience persecution. Yaakov, on the other hand, actually entered Galut on two occasions (Mitzrayim and the house of Lavan) and lived a life of bitterness, persecution and misfortune. Although Yaakov had plenty to complain about, he remained steadfast in his faith, and God protected him and his family.
At the end of the lengthy rebuke and list of calamities that may (Rachamana Litzlan) befall our people, Hashem first and foremost promises that he will remember Yaakov. Yaakov experienced a life of hardships, yet he was guarded and cared for by the Divine Presence (as removed as it may have seemed). Similarly, we should find comfort and hope in God's commitment to remember His covenant with us even when He seems so far removed from us.
The Lessons of
by Mrs. Rochi Lerner
Parshat Behar, discussing the laws of Shemittah, states that land may be worked for six years, and the seventh year is a Sabbatical year for the land. A super-Shemittah, the Yovel year, is mentioned in the latter half of the Parsha. It resembles the Shemittah year very closely.
What is the relevance of these agricultural laws to Sefer Vayikra, the book that defines our worldly tasks and obligations? Furthermore, Shabbat and Shemittah are both referred to as "Shabbat to Hashem," highlighting an inner connection. What is the meaning of Shabbat, Shemittah, and Yovel, and how are they linked? Rav Kook addresses these questions as follows:
Shabbat illustrates a fundamental principle of Judaism. Judaism is not just a religion, but a way of life. As such, work, which is fundamental to man's identity, falls within the rubric of spiritual practice. Rather than being viewed as an end onto itself, work becomes service to Hashem by being limited to six days. On Shabbat, one is obligated to refrain from working and instead focus on the spiritual. Hashem recognized the addictive power of work and its all-consuming nature. Consequently, Hashem required us to limit work, and step out of the rat race. In keeping Shabbat, we are involved in developing Kedushah, our God-given task. On Shabbat, we reconnect to our spiritual centers, and our lives are given purpose and meaning. Shabbat then carries us through the rest of the week until we are spiritually recharged on the following Shabbat.
But Shabbat is an individual experience. Shemittah performs the same function for the nation as Shabbat does for the individual. During Shemittah, the land returns to its natural state, agricultural work ceases, and debts are cancelled. Am Yisrael is given an opportunity to focus its efforts on Kedushah, not as individuals but as a nation. Not preoccupied by the day-to-day demands of the land and commerce, we are liberated to redirect our attention toward our spiritual development.
The Yovel represents the highest level in the hierarchy. It affords us the opportunity to restore the Kedushah of an entire generation. During the Yovel, all reverts to its original state. The land returns to its original owners, even if they have forgotten their inheritance. Servants go back to their families, and begin anew. Everyone is given a new beginning. The Yovel offers a second chance.
The Yovel begins on Yom Kippur, the day when our past sins are judged and evaluated. At the close of the day, we are given a clean slate, and the opportunity to start fresh. On Yom Kippur, we fast, both to afflict ourselves and to resemble the angels. In so doing, we attempt to reveal the hidden Kedushah in all of us. Yovel is much the same. It provides us with the opportunity to link ourselves with past generations, and imbues us with the Kedushah to carry us into the future.
To return to the original question, Sefer Vayikra concerns itself with detailing the task of Am Yisrael. Our task is to reveal Kedushah as individuals, as a nation, and finally, as a generation. Shabbat, Shemittah, and Yovel are the tools to assist us in performing this task. Therefore, it is completely logical that Shemittah and Yovel should be contained within Sefer Vayikra. They are the means by which we are to accomplish our task of revealing our innate Kedushah.
by Avi Wollman
In this week's Parsha the Torah says, "And you will do (Vaasitem) my 'Chukim' and my 'Mishpatim' you will guard (Tishmeru), and you will dwell securely on the Land" (Vayikra 25:18). When talking about Chukim, laws whose meaning we do not understand, the Pasuk it uses the word "do." When talking about Mishpatim, however, it uses the word "guard." What is the reason for this? Why must the Torah use these two different verbs to describe Chukim and Mishpatim?
Rabbi Frand provides an ingenious answer to this puzzling change of verbs. He states that the answer can be found by analyzing the different tests inherent in Chukim and Mishpatim. In Chukim, laws which we do not understand, the challenge is that without understanding the reason for these seemingly illogical Mitzvot, one might say that is not important to observe them. Since it is already very challenging to observe Chukim, the Torah uses the word "do." However, what could be the challenge for Mishpatim when their reasons are known? Rabbi Frand answers that with Mishpatim, one must be careful not to make certain assumptions about Mitzvot based on their explanations. The Pasuk is teaching us that even if we would think a Mitzvah would not apply in a certain instance because its reason would not apply, we must observe the Mitzvah nevertheless. Therefore, the Torah uses the word "guard" to teach us that Mishpatim cannot be meddled with and must be guarded.
This teaches us an important lesson regarding personal daily lives. We often find ourselves in a situation in which a Mitzvah that we would rather avoid comes up, and we make excuses to exempt ourselves from fulfilling it. The word "guard" comes to teach us that we cannot do this, and even when it may be a strain, we are obligated to perform every mitzvah and to serve Hashem with all our hearts.
Halacha of the Week
One should try to give business to one's fellow Yehudi whenever possible (Rashi to Vayikra 25:14). The Chafetz Chaim (Ahavat Chesed 5:7) codifies the Rama's ruling that one should give business to the Yehudi even if the Jew's product is slightly more expensive. Rav Hershel Schachter rules that this does not apply to an item that one buys often throughout the year, because over the course of a year the Yehudi's product will be much more expensive. For example, one is not required to buy milk at a Yehudi's store even if it only slightly more expensive than at a Nochri's store. Rav Schachter further rules that there is no distinction between an observant and non-observant Yehudi in the context of this Halacha. However, if the observant individual is sending his children to Yeshivot and the non-observant person is not, then one is indirectly supporting Yeshivot by patronizing the observant Jew's store. Your business helps the storeowner pay his children's Yeshiva tuitions.
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