A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Behar 14 Iyar 5763 May 17, 2003 Vol.12 No.29
In This Issue:
Mr. Sam Davidowitz
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
Why am I Writing About Yom Kippur in May?
by Mr. Sam Davidowitz
In our modernist society, one would think that Parshat Behar would be a bit disconnected. After all, most of us are not farmers, so we do not have to worry about letting our land lie fallow. Our modern society no longer has slaves, so we would not be concerned with the rules about letting slaves go free. Letting land revert back to its ancestral owner is not a concern of most modern real estate agents or investors. Nevertheless, the reasons concerning these unique practices hold a relevance which is of great concern and profound importance to those of us in the modern world.
In Parshat Behar, Hashem tells Moshe to speak to Bnei Yisrael and tell them to honor the Shemita cycle where one's land must lie fallow in the seventh year. After we have counted Shemita for seven cycles, we are to have a Yovel-a celebration honoring Hashem and His creation of the world. The Yovel is to begin on Yom Kippur: "V'ha'avarta Shofar Teruah Bachodesh Hashivii Beasor Lachodesh Biyom Hakippurim Taaviru Shofar Bichol Artzechem," "You shall sound a broken blast on the shofar, in the seventh month, on the tenth of the month; on the Day of Atonement you shall sound the shofar throughout your land" (Leviticus 25:9). The Yovel cycle is one based on the counting of years. Therefore, it is seems illogical for Yovel to begin on the tenth day of the year- one would expect Yovel to begin on the first day of the year. To be concise, one would expect Yovel to begin on Rosh Hashanah rather than on Yom Kippur.
Shemita and Yovel show us the connection between Hashem and the land. The land represents life since it is through food that we can sustain life. Honoring the land is truly honoring Hashem, and noting that it is the seventh year that should be honored obviously connects to the creation of this world and the resting of Hashem on the seventh day. Both Shemita and Yovel and Yom Kippur are described as being a "Shabbat Shabbaton," yet Shemita and Yovel are a "Shabbat Shabbaton yi'hiyeh la'ares, Shabbat LaHashem-A Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath for Hashem" (Leviticus 25:4). In truth, Shemita and Yovel are less about farming, slavery, and land ownership and more about developing a true connection to Hashem that honors the link between Hashem and our prosperity. That is why Shemita and Yovel are a "Shabbat LaHashem-A Sabbath for Hashem" (Leviticus 25:4) because it is then that we should understand the correlation between Hashem and our successes. Yom Kippur is a "Shabbat Shabbaton Lachem," "a Sabbath of solemn rest for you" (Leviticus 23:32). It is on Yom Kippur when we must look inward and note how we have behaved in the past year and while Yom Kippur is literally a "Day of Atonement," we must not forget that one of the crucial steps to achieving true atonement is to look toward the future and to commit to change one's ways.
While there may be direct benefits to the observance of Shemita and Yovel, the real gain lies in their spiritual significance. In a sense, Shemita and Yovel strip of us our monetary possessions and place us before Hashem as we truly are. Shemita and Yovel give each one of us the opportunity to make a major change in our life and the way that we conduct ourselves by giving us a time for quiet reflection. Reading Parshat Behar forces us to reflect upon ourselves and what we do for our livelihood. It forces us to look inward and reflect upon the choices that we make each day. How we act in our professions should be a true reflection on Hashem, on being created in His image. Thus, the connection of Shemita and Yovel to Yom Kippur is apparent as both are times for reflection on past deeds as well as times to look toward the future.
Giving a Helping Hand
by Shlomo Yaros
In Parshat Behar we learn the mitzvah of "Vihechezakta Bo," to strengthen someone who is having a problem. Rashi points out that this means that if a person is in a downward spiral it will be much easier to help that person get back on the right track before they have already fallen to great depths. This is comparable to a heavy object falling to the ground. Even a very weak person is capable of restoring the object back up if it has fallen just partially, but if it has fallen to the ground, even a very strong person would have difficulty picking the object back up. Many other Rabbanim also point out similar ideas - that the key is catching the person's fall in the early stages because it is a far greater challenge to help a person who is so depressed.
The Torah Temimah takes a different approach. He explains that although it is important to catch a person's collapse at an early stage, a way to understand the pasuk is that we must continue to help the person even if once is not enough. If four or five times is not enough we must continue to help.
The Or Hachayim takes yet another approach that this mitzvah is specifically referring to repentance. He explains that it is teaching us that if a person is leaving the proper Jewish life then we must give him the strength to do Teshuva and become a more Torah abiding Jew. This explanation can be combined with either of the other explanations to explain how according to the Or Hachayim someone would help the person who needs to do Teshuva.
Perhaps there is another understanding of the Pasuk based on the Rambam's different levels of giving Tzedaka. The Rambam believed that the highest level of giving Tzedaka was finding the poor person a job; this gives the person the emotional strength and resources to no longer need Tzedaka. We can learn from this that the most important way of strengthening people who are in need of help is not finding a short term solution or fixing their problems for them, but rather guiding people how to fix their problems on their own because in the end that is the best and most lasting way to help those who are in need.
by Jerry Karp
This week's Parsha discusses the laws of buying and selling land in Eretz Yisrael. One of the most interesting laws in the Parsha is that in the Yovel year, all land must return to its original owner. The Torah mandates that land is to be sold for a fixed number of years and the price is to be set based on the number of years remaining in the 50-year cycle. This seems to be quite peculiar. Why is the Torah insistent that land cannot be sold on a permanent basis?
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains that the Torah is attempting to create an economic equality between all of Bnei Yisrael. Without the Yovel year, a few members of the upper class could own large regions of land while many destitute people would own nothing. Therefore, the purpose of the Yovel year is to ensure that an economic balance is always kept among Bnei Yisrael.
Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook has a very different approach to the purpose of Yovel. He explains that Yovel is meant to renew the holiness of Bnei Yisrael. To effect this, however, all land must return to its original owner. The holiness of the Yovel is brought about by the freedom that comes with economic balance. When the original owner of the land sells his inheritance, he is giving up his freedom and, so to speak, becoming a "slave." This is opposed to the idea in Chazal's famous statement where Hashem says that Bnei Yisrael are "Avadai Hem, Vilo Avadim La'avadim," "My slaves, and not the slaves of slaves." When the Yovel comes, all those who have "become slaves" and sold their land are forgiven and their land is returned. It is also for this reason that the Yovel begins on Yom Kippur as Yovel is to have an atmosphere of forgiveness.
One question still remains. A house in a city that has had a wall since the time of Yehoshua bin Nun can only be redeemed for one year, and after that time, it belongs permanently to the purchaser. Why is a house in a walled city made an exception? The Meshech Chachmah explains that walled cities were meant for defense, and if all the original owners were to return after the Yovel, they would not be united, since they had not lived together for years. Therefore, the city would not be able to defend itself. The Ramban, however, gives an answer that blends nicely with R' Hirsch's explanation of Yovel. He says that a person will only sell his house if he has become extremely impoverished. The person who sells the house will be extremely embarrassed to be forced to sell his house merely in order to live. Therefore, the Torah sets a limit on the time that the seller has to buy back the house. This is meant to encourage him to buy back the house and regain his pride. Ultimately, the point of selling land is to help one's financial situation, but the Torah is mandating that even this should not take an emotional toll on a person. The Torah considers a person's self‑worth to be more important than a person's financial worth.
by Chanan Strassman
There are many laws to which a Jew must adhere concerning Yovel, the Jubilee Year. We must refrain from working the land, free our slaves, and restore any purchased properties to the original owner. However, the Torah is not very clear when it mentions the law concerning a slave's freedom. In Perek 25, Pasuk 10 of Parshat Behar, the Torah says, "and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants." Here, the Torah does not specify the slaves. By saying "for all its inhabitants," is the Torah implying that there are people other than slaves who become free when Yovel arrives?
Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin offers an answer by quoting a famous statement made by Chazal. Chazal said: "Whoever acquires a Jewish slave, it is as if he has acquired a master over himself" (Kiddushin 20). What could Chazal have meant when they said this? The Torah states in Devarim 15:16, "It is good for him [the slave] with you" meaning that he is treated well, even as an equal, throughout the time he is subservient to you. Therefore, if there is only one pillow in your entire house, the slave gets to use it. If there is only enough food for one person, the slave gets to eat. So we see that, in some ways, the servant is higher than his master.
Therefore, when the Torah says "for all its inhabitants," we see that it does not just refer to the slave, but that it also refers to the master, who to a certain extent, must treat his slave as if the slave were a master over him. Now that the slave is freed, the master is freed from his " enslavement" as an owner of slaves. That is why the Torah mentions "all its inhabitants."
Halacha of the Week
The Magen Avraham (561:2) and Mishna Brura (561:5) rule in accordance with the Rambam and the other Rishonim who believe that one who enters the Makom Mikdash violates a very serious sin whose punishment is Karet.
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