Parshat Behar-Bechukotai Vol.10 No.32

Date of issue: 26 Iyar 5761 -- May 19, 2001

This week's issue has been sponsored by the Apfel families
in memory of Dr. A Zachary Apfel Aleha Hashalom.

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This week's featured writers:

Rabbi Darren Blackstein
Binyamin Kagedan
Ami Friedman
Yair Manas
Rabbi Howard Jachter
-*Birkat Hashkivainu for Yom Yerushalayim*
Food For Thought
-by *David Gertler*

Last But Not Least
by Rabbi Darren Blackstein

In Parshat Bechukotai we are presented with a reality that we all eventually face. If we follow Hashem’s commandments, learn about them and practice them, then our existence in this world will be pleasant and productive. However, failure to comply with these commandments will lead to a painful and tortured existence. Someone may not readily see the truth of this formula in his own lifetime, but it is certainly discernable in the bigger picture. Even when we sin, Hashem is looking forward to our repentance as is indicated when it says “Then they will confess their sin and the sin of their forefathers…”(26:40). Our confession is expected and anticipated. After we are dispersed in the land of our enemies and thereby humbled, we will be remembered by Hashem. Pasuk 42 tells us, “I will remember My covenant with Jacob and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember, and I will remember the land.” Normally the Avot are listed with Abraham first, followed by Isaac, and ending with Jacob. Why here are they listed in reverse order?

In conjunction with this verse, the Midrash Rabbah on Vayikra (section 36) cites a dispute regarding the order of creation. Bait Shammai holds that the heavens were created first and then the earth afterwards. This is shown by the very first verse in the Torah. Bait Hillel maintains that the earth was created first, as is shown by the second verse in chapter 2 of Bereishit, “In the day that Hashem made earth and heaven.” Rabbi Yochanan, in an attempt to understand these two opinions as one cohesive idea, says in the name of the Chachamim the following regarding the creative process, the heavens came first, while regarding completion the earth was first. How does this dispute relate to our question about the Avot being presented in reverse order? Perhaps we can say as follows. Even though the heavens were created first, their completion was contingent on the completion of the earth. The earth’s importance should not be minimized even when contemplating the heavens. In terms of our creation as a nation, our beginning and our roots lie with Avraham. Avraham is at the core of our commitment to our belief in Hashem as the one God. Due to his prominence in this role, he is normally listed first. However, in our Parsha, we are not talking about our creation as a people. Our focus is our finishing touches, our completion as a people. This completion is contingent in our firm adherence to Torah and the realization of the consequences that await disobedience. When we think of this commitment and of the repentance needed from time to time, we must mention the last of the Avot first. This represents our desire to earn our own salvation if possible. If Abraham were listed first, we would be admitting that we essentially are not worthy of consideration and the only way we can be saved is by remembering our beginning through Avraham. By listing Jacob first, we are attempting to alert Hashem’s attention to our latest accomplishments. The merits of the Avot will certainly stand for us but we should not let them stand instead of us. We must take the initiative regarding our own improvement. The Avot started something wonderful and we must complete their efforts.

The current situation in Israel is at best precarious. We cannot sit back and think that it will fix itself. Our active participation is required. Whether through our Tefillah, learning, financial support, or through our attendance to events such as the Israeli Day Parade, we must try to earn the fulfillment of the promises made to the Avot so long ago. Just as the heavens could not be completed until the earth was completed, so too that which the Avot started cannot be completed until we do our share.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel
by Binyamin Kagedan

In Parshat Bechukotai, the Torah presents us with the Tochacha, a list of gruesome curses that will befall Bnai Yisrael if they do not heed the word of Hashem. The Torah carries on these morbid consequences for forty verses before terminating into a message of hope, reassuring us that through the Brit, Hashem and Bnai Yisrael will always be together.

However, towards the end of the Tochacha, there seems to be a blatantly misplaced Pasuk. The next to last Pasuk, Pasuk 43, says Vizacharti Et Britay Yaakov Viaf Et Britay Yitzchak Viaf Et Britay Avraham Viet Haretz Ezkar “ And I will remember my covenant with Yaakov, and also my covenant with Yitzchak, and also my covenant with Avraham will I remember, and I shall remember the land.” Right after that, the text switches back to curse Vihaaretz Taazov Mahem Vitaretz Et Shabtoteha Behashama Mahem Viham Yirtzu Et Onam Yaan Obian Bimishpatay Maasu Viet Chukotai Gaala Nafsham “For the land shall lie forsaken, without them, and they shall be paid the punishment of their iniquity because, they rejected ordinances and ignored my statutes,” before finally ending. What could be the explanation for this seemingly lost Pasuk?

Rashi, in his comment on this Pasuk, explains why the patriarchs are mentioned in reverse order. He says we call upon the merit of Yaakov, and if that is not sufficient, we call upon the merit of Yitzchak, and if that is not sufficient, we call upon the merit of Avraham. We can learn an important lesson from Rashi. When things are looking down and we seem to be even beyond the help of our father Jacob, we might become full of despair. Just as to be all hope seems lost, we must realize that we are not done yet. Even in the worst of situations, there is still hope, the merit of Avraham. This idea is representative of the light at the end of the tunnel that awaits the Jews in every one of their misfortunes.

The Tochacha seems to be just about the worst-case scenario for the Jews. Hearing about terrible punishments for consecutive 40 verses could cause one to be overwhelmed with fear or depression. With that out of place Pasuk, Hashem is reminding us of this simple idea: no matter what will happen to Bnai Yisrael, in the end, there will always be a salvation.

Returning Home
by Ami Friedman

In Vayikra 25:10 the Torah states: Ukidashtem Et Shnat Hachamishim Shana Ukraatem Dror Baaretz Lichol Yoshveha Yovel He Tiheyeh Lachem Ushavtem Eesh El Achuzato Vieesh El Mishpachto Tashvu. Rashi states that Yovel is a distinct year because it has a specific name. He says that the word Yovel means a ram's horn and this year is called Yovel because of the Shofar blowing. The Ramban dissents claiming that a goat's horn can also be used as a Shofar. He quotes the Ibn Ezra who argues that the word Yovel means being sent somewhere. The Rambam believes that Yovel pertains to the words Ukraatem Dror and not to Viheavarta Shofar Teruah which refers to the Shofar because the word Yovel follows the word Dror. He concludes that Yovel refer to the freedom to settle "anywhere" (i.e. one's own house) that he had to sell earlier because of debts.
The Ramban says that the word Yovel means to transport oneself because it says (Yeshayahu 23:4)éYovilhu Rigalav Marachok Lagor. He explains Yovel He Tehiyeh Lachem to mean all of you, Bnai Yisrael, return to your own land. He explains Yovel He Shnat Hchemeshim Shnat Tehiye Lachem as every 50th year should be devoted to returning home and not to harvesting.

Today, we have the obligation to return to our homes in Israel that we lost 2000 years ago. The Jews are the only people who want to live in their original homeland under any circumstances regardless of how many years they have not been living there. On the contrary, Europeans left their countries and settled in the Americas and Australia. We learn from Yovel that after 50 years since Israel was reborn, it is now time that every Jew, as it says Lachem, must reclaim their lost lands and live in Israel.

Viahavta Et Hashem Elokecha
by Yair Manas

The decree of the Shmittah year might have appeared to be a harsh restriction when Hashem first presented it. Hashem commanded us not to work our fields for an entire year. (This was long before farmers learned that leaving a field empty for a year restores nutrients and minerals, thus improving the field.) The wild produce would not belong by right to any person, and the land was considered to be free, under the ownership of Hashem. What is the reason for this Mitzva? Why does it specifically apply every seventh year? How were the Jews supposed to sustain themselves during the Shmittah year?

The significance of the number seven may provide the key to these answers. This number appears many times in the Torah. Paroh dreamed of seven fat and seven skinny cows, Yehoshua circled the walls of Yericho seven times, and, of course, Shabbat occurs on the seventh day of the week. This is based on the fact that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. In acknowledging His creating the world and His control over all aspects of life, we rest on the seventh day. This reminds us that our souls are of a Divine, spiritual nature.

The Shmittah year is of a similar nature. The land rests and remains unused. It is an acknowledgment that all our earthly possessions, our land, our homes, our money, and even our personal freedom are ultimately under Hashem's control. We should never let ourselves be tricked into thinking that we really own and have full control over anything. Whatever we own is given to us temporarily to use for the utmost good. When we have money, we should give a portion of it to Tzedaka. When we own land, we should give some of its produce to the needy. If we forget that we are only temporary guardians of our possessions, we forget that everything is under Hashem's control. The Shmittah year, in which we give up ownership of the land, reminds us that everything is under Hashem's control.

How does someone make a living if he lacks possession of his field and its produce? Man must realize that Hashem provides sustenance. The growth of crops in the previous six years is also from Hashem. The Jew is promised that if he is deserving, his produce from the sixth year will be enough for the seventh year as well. We should all thank Hashem for our blessings and have belief that He will provide for us.

Food for Thought
by author

1)Why does 25:8 repeat how many years should be counted until Yovel, four times (Sheva Shabatot Shnayim, Sheva Shnayim Sheva Piamim, Shabatot Shnayim, Tesha Viarbaim Shana )?

2) Why does the Torah find it necessary to command us to reduce the asking price of the land relative to the years left to the Yovel cycle
(25:14-16)? Is it not an obvious in the way of business to sell something at a price relative to how much benefit can be received?

3) Is the Yovel cycle separate from the Shemittah cycle or are a set of seven Shemittot and one Yovel a single unit? Are they separate Mitzvot or are they part of the same Mitzva? (See the dispute between the Rambam and the Raavad found in the Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shemittah 3:10)

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Staff at time of publication:
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