The second Parsha we read this Shabbat is Parshat Bechukotai. It begins with the Pesukim, “If you follow My decrees and My Mitzvot you watch and fulfill, I will give rain in the proper time, and the crops will grow, and I will give peace in the land, and you will recline without fear.”
Rashi explains that Hashem promises these blessings if we are Ameilim, working hard, in intensive Torah study. Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his Sefer Darash Moshe, writes that not only does Torah study require intensive effort, but every Mitzvah one is required to perform should be done with all one’s power. Whether one is learning Torah, performing Mitzvot or attempting to influence others to be Torah-practicing Jews, one must put great effort into his pursuits. Only in that situation will he be able to influence others to see that the Torah and Mitzvot are so important and that one expends great effort in their performance. One who sees such intensity will understand that Torah study and fulfilling Mitzvot are worth the effort that his friend expends on them.
The same applies to giving charity, into which one must put great effort by giving generously. Rav Moshe said, “When many people are called to the Torah, they donate Chai, eighteen dollars.” He continued, “The Shuls and Yeshivot will be much better off if the people would donate Mot, 446 dollars.” He did not only mean the amounts, but he also meant that we should, so to speak, die for the Torah. The Talmud in Masechet Megillah says that only someone who is willing to die for the Torah is successful in Torah. Also, the effort to give must reflect the importance of the Mitzvah. The Gemara in Masechet Gittin teaches us that if one’s finances are exactly leveled, he still should give charity, and should not think that this Mitzvah doesn’t apply to him. For this, Hashem will justly reward his effort.
Rabbi Yissocher Frand quotes Rav Avraham Pam who said, “The previous generation, who lived through the Holocaust, was put to the trial of serving Hashem, ‘with all your hearts and with all your souls’ (Devarim 6:5). Our generation, the Jews of America, is being put to the trial of serving Hashem, ‘with all your wealth.’” How do we relate to money? What do we do with it?
This week, two of our students at Torah Academy, Tzvi Solomon and Zachary Rabbenou, were in the local bagel store and found a large sum of money on the floor. Instead of just putting the money in their pockets, they asked each patron of the store if he or she had lost any money, and they even ran out to the street to ask the person who was in front of them on line. After everyone said they were missing nothing, they left the money with the workers of the store to see if anyone would return and claim it. Later in the day, a woman did return and the four hundred dollars were returned to her.
In the Shemonah Esrei of Shabbat Minchah, we say, “Mi KeAmecha Yisrael, Goy Echad BaAretz,” “Who is like your people, Israel, they are one nation in this land.” The Gemara in Yoma (86a) says that if one learns Torah and acts properly, people will say, “Praiseworthy are his parents who taught him Torah. Praiseworthy are their Rebbeim who taught them Torah.” We are privileged to have such wonderful students who invested so much effort into the Mitzvah of returning this lost item, doing even more than they were required to do.
Ameilut, toil, is only mentioned in connection with Torah study because only one’s efforts illustrate if his intentions are merely to pursue wisdom or actually to fulfill a Mitzvah. To this end, one must devote all of his strength and time to it. Therefore, one factor governs both Torah study and the performance of Mitzvot; both must be done with the greatest effort. Only with that will we demonstrate that our intent is to fulfill the will of Hashem and not to satisfy our own personal interests.
May Hashem see our efforts and bestow all the blessing of rain in the proper time, prosperous crops and peace in Israel and throughout the world.
Helping a Needy Jew Stay on His Feet
by Aryeh Cohen
The Torah states in Parshat Behar (25:35), “If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him.” This teaches us that we are obligated to help a fellow Jew financially. By using the word “falter,” the Torah emphasizes that it is more important to support a Jew financially as he stumbles than when he is bankrupt and is reduced to begging for charity. The Torat Kohanim presents a brief story as an analogy. If a donkey begins to stumble under its burden, one man possesses sufficient strength to adjust the load on its back or remove some of the load so that the donkey is able to walk further. However, once the donkey has collapsed, even five strong men cannot pull it to its feet.
In addition to obligating us to help a needy Jew, both in times preceding and during poverty, the Torah also teaches us to provide this assistance in a humane and thoughtful way. In Tehillim (15:11) we are taught, “Fortunate is the lot of one who wisely helps the poor.” The Talmud Yerushalmi (Bava Metzia 80b) relates that when Rabbi Laizer noticed a poor person walking behind him, he would drop a Dinar, creating the impression that the Dinar was dropped by accident. If the person ran after Rabbi Laizer to return the Dinar (to do Hashavat Aveidah), Rabbi Laizer said, “You can keep it - I have already given up hope of retrieving it.” Rabbi Laizer followed the Torah’s teachings in our Parsha by giving assistance to Jews in his vicinity before they were reduced to actively seeking aid. In this manner, he ensured that those in need received the assistance necessary to help them before they stumbled further.
by Ari Levine
The Gemara says in Masechet Berachot (6b) that the reward for one who rejoices with the Chatan at a wedding is “very great.” The Gemara also compares this act of rejoicing to rebuilding a destroyed home in Jerusalem. This comparison is odd- what is the connection between rejoicing with the Chatan and rebuilding a destructed home in Jerusalem?
The Germara in Yoma (9b) states that the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed because of Sin’at Chinam, baseless hatred. This Gemara implies that the Beit HaMikdash will be rebuilt on the premise of Ahavat Chinam, baseless love.
When one rejoices with the Chatan, one is demonstrating Ahavat Chinam, and therefore is compared to one who built up part of Jerusalem. His kind actions counteracted the cause of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash.
However, one can still ask why the Gemara only uses the example of the Chatan. Why not say any act of kindness will help rebuilt Jerusalem? An answer could be that when Chazal chose the example of the Chatan, they were not saying that only rejoicing with the Chatan helps rebuilt Jerusalem. They were merely presenting one example of the good deeds that can be done that show love between fellow Jews that will help expedite the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash.
This past Tuesday was Lag BaOmer, the day the students of the great Rabi Akiva stopped dying. As we all know, the students died because they did not give the proper respect to each other. We must learn from the mistakes of Rabi Akiva’s students and treat our fellows Jews with the respect they deserve. This will hopefully bring us one step closer to rebuilding Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash.
Walk This Way
by Gavriel Metzger
Parshat Bechukotai details one of the two Tochachot recorded in the Torah. Bnei Yisrael are collectively warned of the consequences of not following Hashem’s Mitzvot, but are also told of the reward waiting for them if they listen to the Torah. Among the promises that lay at the end of the tunnel for a loyal nation is the guarantee that “VeHit’halachti BeTochechem” (26:12), that Hashem will “walk” amongst his people.
However, in Parshat Terumah Hashem tells Bnei Yisrael that if they are good, “VeShachanti BeTocham,” “I will dwell in your midst.” Why does Hashem suddenly change the nature of His promise? Why does He choose walking as the verb to describe such a shift?
Seforno reminds us that Parshat Terumah talks about the building of the Mishkan and the processes that take place within it. Therefore, Hashem says that He will dwell among Bnei Yisrael, since, in the Midbar, His presence is restricted to a specific location, that being where Bnei Yisrael are presently camped. However, Bechukotai prepares Bnei Yisrael for what will occur in Eretz Yisrael, where they will be spread out over the entire country. Thus, in order to compensate for that, Hashem must change His “element” and “walk” across the land to be amongst all of his chosen people.
Many things are out of our control in life, such as our lifespan and our livelihood. But one of the things we can control is our physical actions, such as walking. Not only can we control where or when we walk, but we can also control the speed and effort of the movement. To that effect, the Netziv writes that the degree of Hashem’s presence is dependent on the individual as well. One can “control” the amount of Hashem’s presence depending on one’s Zerizut, eagerness, for Mitzvot. The more righteous a person is, the more Shechinah will be recognizable to him.
Furthermore, walking has more of a humanistic feel to it than dwelling, as the Ramban points out. The Ramban consequently posits that Hashem is reminding Bnei Yisrael that he is “Melech Malchei HaMelachim,” King of Kings. A king walks among his people at times to obtain feedback, along with supplying them with their daily needs. So too, Hashem, being our King, supplies us with everything we need and watches over us as he makes his rounds as king.
We can learn an important lesson from Hashem’s dedication to us by changing how His presence is felt throughout the nation based on the situation at hand (spread out in Israel as opposed to the Midbar). We too must learn to make smooth adaptations based on our surroundings and do what is best for the common good. This aspect of life is under our control, and we must make use of this opportunity granted to us by Hashem to our great advantage.
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