Dvar Torah Parshat Behar 5775 2015

Hashem speaks to Moshe and instructs him to speak to Bnei Yisrael and tell them: כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ, “…When you come into the land that I give you…” וְשָׁבְתָה הָאָרֶץ שַׁבָּת לַיקֹוָק, “…the land should observe a Sabbath of rest for Hashem.” (Lev. 25,2)

The Shabbat spiritually enlightens and exhilarates the Jew who observes it according to the law. In the same fashion, the land is to observe a Shabbat every seventh year. We call it Shmitah. The fields are to be given a rest and are not to be worked. When the Jewish people dwell in the land, the land has a revival. When we look at history we see how many people have conquered the Land of Israel and not one was able to make it flourish. The land lay desolate for centuries and all you could see was deserts.

When the Jewish people began to return in mass during the last century the land suddenly took on a new reality. It came back to life. It started to flourish. It seems to have been uplifted by Hashem and regained a new spiritual existence.

Israel today is not only great for itself but is contributing to the world at large. Numerous creations and inventions in virtually all fields are developed in Israel and adopted by the world. In science, medicine, technology, and every domain of modern civilization, Israel is in the forefront. The promise of Hashem to the Jewish people is coming to pass before our own eyes.

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Dvar Torah Parshat BeHar 5774 2014

אֶת שַׁבְּתֹתַי תִּשְׁמֹרוּ וּמִקְדָּשִׁי תִּירָאו , “My Sabbath’s shall you observe and My Sanctuary shall you revere…”. (Lev. 26,2) This is how this weekly Torah reading ends. The order of the verse is strange. First we are told to keep the Shabbat and only then to revere the Sanctuary. One would think that the Sanctuary of Hashem would be of first importance.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein offers an interesting comment with regard to this question. He says that essentially the service of Hashem is performed at home and in the street, when one eats and when one conducts his business and all his other affairs.

The Mitzvah to sanctify the Temple comes after many other Mitzvot. Actually the Jewish people and the Jewish religion have survived centuries without a Temple. Jews can still be considered observant and true to Hashem even without a Temple.

Living as a Jew requires the observance of the Mitzvot of which most are issues which relate to how people should deal with each other. If they act properly towards each other their relation with Hashem will fall in place.

Dvar Torah BeHar-Chukotai 5773 2013

If the Jewish people in Israel would live according to the laws of the Torah, אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֶת מִצְוֹתַי (Lev. 26,3) we are promised among other things that rain will fall in their due time and the land would give its produce. What follows is a description of prosperity and plenty in the Land of Israel. The Sifra, which is the Halachic Midrash on the Torah, goes a step further based on the blessing Hashem gave to Avraham, וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה , “…and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.” (Gen.12,4)

The Sifra states that all nations of the world will come to you to purchase food because of your prosperity. In the ancient world which was limited in scope this promise seems feasible. In the modern world, which has expanded to encompass the entire globe, this blessing is still true but has acquired a different meaning.

In today’s world its implication could refer to fields of modern technologies and discoveries. In this sense it is certainly true that the entire world turns to Israel to take advantage of its new expertise, skills and innovations. This little country has offered the world far more proportionately than any other country on the earth.

Even Israel’s greatest enemies are constantly using the gifts coming from Israel even though they refuse to recognize their source and certainly would not give Israel credit for its contributions to modern advancements.

Dvar Torah Parshat BeHar 5772 2012

The Portion begins by instructing us concerning the laws of Shmita or the Sabbatical year. The fields are to lay fallow, no planting and no harvesting. A number of verses later the Torah says: וְכִי תֹאמְרוּ מַה נֹּאכַל בַּשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִת, “If you will say, ‘What will we eat on the seventh year? Behold we will not sow and not gather in our crop.’ ” (Lev. 25,20) The question, of course, is, if they will not be able to work the fields during the seventh year, on what will they survive? The answer follows that Hashem will provide on the sixth year sufficient food to last for the time they cannot work.

The Ramban wonders, what is their concern about the seventh year. They have the growth of the sixth year. Their question should have been about the eighth year. He thus explains the words of the verse should be understood as saying, “If you will ask on the seventh year, what will we eat”, the concern is about what will they eat on the eighth year.

Other commentaries put a comma after the word “eat”. The meaning is, “What will we eat, on the seventh year we cannot sow and gather crop?”

The Sages tell us; whoever has food and asks what will we eat tomorrow, is of little faith. (Sota 48b) A person must trust that Hashem will provide his needs. If he has food he should not fear that he will not have in the future. A person should certainly be concerned about tomorrow but he should still put his trust in Hashem that he will provide his essential necessities.

Dvar Torah Parshat Behar 5771 2011

In today’s Torah reading we are told about the SHNAT HAYOVEL, the Jubilee Year. One of the commands states: UKRATEM DROR BA’ARETZ LECHOL YOSHVE’HA, “…and you shall proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants…” (Lev. 25,10) This is a directive to free all Jewish slaves.

Slavery was permitted by the Torah because this was the normal practice of the time. We are told, however, that there were many restrictions upon the master. Elsewhere the Torah says if the master uses physical force and causes permanent damage, e.g. he knocks out the slave’s eye or tooth, he must set him free. This applies to Jewish and non-Jewish slaves equally. In the Jubilee year all Jewish slaves are to be set free, regardless of how many years they served.

If the Torah decrees that slaves should be set free, why does it state “you shall proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants”? It should state, “you shall proclaim freedom throughout the land for all the slaves”. Why does it say “for all its inhabitants”?

In light of what was said above, that many restrictions were placed on the master, freeing the servant was also freeing the master from his many obligations. The Talmud tells us: KOL HAKONEH EVED IVRI KEKONEH ADON LE’ATZMO, “whoever buys a Hebrew slave is like buying a master for himself”. (Ked. 22a) Chazal explain, you should not eat white bread and he black bread; you drink old wine (which is better) and he new wine; you sleep on a feather bed and he on straw.

Hence the Torah uses the expression “for all its inhabitants”, because when the slave goes free the master is freed from all his responsibilities and commitments.

Another explanation may be given. When all the slaves are freed it changes the entire composition of the society. All Jews who were slaves and separated from their families and communities now go back and resume their lives. This has an impact on all of their family members, their friends and their society. It is a complete overhaul in the land of “all its inhabitants”.

Dvar Torah Parshat Behar 5770 2010

In BeChukotai we are promised that if we walk in the path of the Torah Hashem will send us blessings and peace. There will be prosperity in the land and we shall dwell in tranquility and security. The passage ends with the statement by Hashem that he took us out of Egypt and redeemed us from slavery: VA’OLECH ETCHEM KOMEMIYUT, “… and I led you erect.” (Lev. 26,13) What exactly is the meaning of the word KOMEMIYUT, erect?

Rashi explains that it means erect in stature. That means we were brought to the Promised Land as a proud people standing up prominently and proudly. Rabbi Meir in the Talmud has a slightly different interpretation. He deals with the plural of the word and connects it with the double height of Adam, the first man. (B.B. 75a)

This is also somewhat enigmatic. What did Rabbi Meir imply? Before Adam transgressed he was physically faultless as he had been created by Hashem and he was also spiritually perfect with direct communication with his Creator. He excelled in his physical appearance and in his spiritual status. That is how we were brought into the Promised Land.

This is our prayer in Grace After Meals. HARACHAMAN HU YOLICHENU KOMEMIYUT LE’ARTZENU, Hashem should lead us upright to our land with the double exalted stature. We should have the physical perfection of the land and the spiritual excellence it offers.

Dvar Torah Parshat Behar Bechukotai 2009 5769

We read the Tochacha, the evil that will befall the Jewish people if they abandon the Torah. Immediately following this portion we read the laws pertaining to the values of people in various stages of their lives if they are eager to contribute their value to the sanctuary. Why the juxtaposition of these two passages?

A wonderful explanation was given by a great Rabbi. After reading the Tochacha and the dire horror that is predicted, one may loose all sense of his personal worth. How can he feel that his life has any value if such disastrous and dreadful predictions threaten him?

Hence the Torah sends a word of encouragement. Every person has value. The Tochacha is a declaration of what will happen to him for disregarding the Torah, but it does not diminish the value of a person. We must all live up to the potential we are granted when we are born. Everyone is different and everyone is obligated to live up to his own promise.