• Dvar for Behar-Bechukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34)

    Parshat Bechukotai begins by Hashem (G-d) proclaiming, “if you will walk in My decrees and observe My commandments…,” (26:3) then 1) the rains will come in their season, 2) trees will bear fruit, 3) you will have bread, 4) there will be peace in the land, and 5) a sword will not pass through the land. Rashi (noted commentary) explains that “walking with My decrees” means that we should toil in understanding the rules of the Torah. Although Rashi addresses the seemingly incorrect syntax of “walking” in laws, Rashi doesn’t explain how walking/toiling in the Torah is accomplished, nor does it explain how the rewards correlate to the toiling or performance of the commandment (a common rule throughout the Torah).

    A possible explanation could be a metaphoric reference to walking, telling us that it’s not enough to sit back, read the Torah like a book, rather that we should pace and ponder every bit of the Torah, and never be satisfied with not knowing what, how, or why something is done. So why does the Torah list these specific rewards for making an effort to understand the Torah? Well, don’t just sit back and read this, ponder the question…

  • Dvar for Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3 – 27:34)

    Parshat Bechukotai begins by Hashem (G-d) proclaiming, “if you will walk in My decrees and observe My commandments…” (26:3), then 1) the rains will come in their season, 2) trees will bear fruit, 3) you will have bread, 4) there will be peace in the land, and 5) a sword will not pass through the land. Rashi (noted commentary) explains that “walking with My decrees” means that we should toil in understanding the decrees of the Torah. Although Rashi addresses the seemingly incorrect syntax of “walking” in laws, Rashi doesn’t explain how walking/toiling in the Torah is accomplished, nor does it explain how the rewards correlate to the toiling or performance of the commandment (a common rule throughout the Torah).

    A possible explanation could be a metaphoric reference to walking, telling us that it’s not enough to sit back, read the Torah like a book, rather that we should pace and ponder every bit of the Torah, and never be satisfied with not knowing what, how, or why something is done. So why does the Torah list THESE specific rewards for making an effort to understand the Torah? Well, don’t just read this thought, ponder the questions (possible answer may include the educational benefits of others seeing you care enough to look for answers)…

  • Dvar for Behar-Bechukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34)

    One of this week’s Parshiot, Behar, relates that G-d spoke to Moshe (Moses) on Mount Sinai, saying that for six years you may plant your fields, but the seventh year is a Sabbath for the land. Why does the Torah specify that G-d is speaking on “Mount Sinai?”

    One possible explanation could be because the Sabbatical year is one mitzvah which proves that only G-d could be the Author who gave the Torah on Mount Sinai, because it is there that He promises that the year before the Sabbatical will provide enough crops for the next three years (25:20-21). No human being would ever write this law because it would be disproved within six years. The fact that G-d chose to display his control using this commandment also teaches us a lesson about our accomplishments. If G-d chooses to give us more (crops, money or otherwise), He can do so by having us win the lottery where it’s obvious that He intervened, or he can make our companies and crops suddenly produce better where we can be tempted to take the credit for the increase. It’s up to us to see the bigger picture, and recognize the value of G-d’s commitment to those that appreciate Him.

  • Daily Aliya for Bechukotai, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The “Second Tithe,” which must be consumed by its owners in Jerusalem, is briefly mentioned — as well as the rules for redeeming this tithe if it is too burdensome to transport to Jerusalem. Also discussed is the animal tithe — every tenth animal is offered as a sacrifice, and the meat consumed by its owners. With this we conclude the Book of Leviticus.

    The tithe of the animals (cows, goats, sheep) are to be separated by counting every tenth one regardless of the quality of the animal. Violation of this rule results in both animals being considered holy, which begs the question of why anyone would attempt to redeem.

  • Daily Aliya for Bechukotai, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Land which was purchased and then consecrated by the buyer can also be redeemed, but it reverts to its original owner when the Jubilee arrives. All firstborn livestock are sacrificed in the Temple, and their flesh is consumed by the priests. A person also has the option of dedicating and consecrating any of his belongings specifically for the use of the priests.

    A firstborn is automatically sanctified to the Altar; one may not consecrate it as another korban. In fact, firstborns are often treated differently, and it deserves a ponder. Is it because the first is the most precious, and donating the first adds extra meaning to our relationship with G-d? That would make sense, except that first born people are also treated differently, and they’re not sacrificed (they receive double inheritance). There must be multiple levels of understanding associated with rights and treatment of first borns.

  • Daily Aliya for Bechukotai, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya discusses the endowment of land to the temple. If it is land which was part of the family lot (given to his ancestors when Israel was divided amongst the Tribes), then the redemption price is a fixed amount, depending on its harvest yield. If the owner chooses not to redeem it, it may be redeemed by any other individual. In this event, or if the land remains unredeemed, the land becomes the property of the priests during the next Jubilee year.

    Redeeming a previously endowed piece of land, one must had a fifth as a penalty. Perhaps it’s to cover the paperwork associated with donating and then undoing the donation and replacing it with cash? Either way, it pays to think it through before exercising such options.

  • Dvar for Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3 – 27:34)

    Parshat Bechukotai begins by Hashem (G-d) proclaiming, “if you will walk in My decrees and observe My commandments…” (26:3), then 1) the rains will come in their season, 2) trees will bear fruit, 3) you will have bread, 4) there will be peace in the land, and 5) a sword will not pass through the land. Rashi (noted commentary) explains that “walking with My decrees” means that we should toil in understanding the decrees of the Torah. Although Rashi addresses the seemingly incorrect syntax of “walking” in laws, Rashi doesn’t explain how walking/toiling in the Torah is accomplished, nor does it explain how the rewards correlate to the toiling or performance of the commandment (a common rule throughout the Torah).

    A possible explanation could be a metaphoric reference to walking, telling us that it’s not enough to sit back, read the Torah like a book, rather that we should pace and ponder every bit of the Torah, and never be satisfied with not knowing what, how, or why something is done. So why does the Torah list THESE specific rewards for making an effort to understand the Torah? Well, don’t just sit back and read this post, ponder the question…

  • Daily Aliya for Bechukotai, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya discusses various endowments pledged to the Temple coffers. A person can pledge the worth of an individual, in which case the Torah prescribes how much the person must pay — depending on the gender and age of the individual who is being “assessed.” An animal which is pledged to the Temple must be offered on the altar if it is fit for sacrifice — otherwise it must be “redeemed” for its value. If the owner chooses to redeem it, he must add one fifth of its value to the redemption price. The same rule applies to a house which is pledged to the Temple.

    Fund raisers use this Aliya’s strategy often, connecting a donation with something the donor might be emotionally attached to. We are much more apt to donate the amount needed to feed a child for a week than simply donating $100, although both amounts might be the same.

  • Daily Aliya for Bechukotai, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: And even more blessings: An overabundance of crops and G‑d’s presence will be revealed in our midst. This Aliya then describes the severe, terrifying punishments which will be the Jews’ lot if they reject G‑d’s mitzvot. The punishments include disease, famine, enemy occupation of the land, exile, and desolation of the land. The non-observance of the Sabbatical year is singled out as the reason for the desolation of the land. The Aliya concludes with G‑d’s promise never to utterly forsake us even when we are exiled in the lands of our enemies.

    A significant theme of the Tochacha is the connection between the keeping of the laws of Shmita and our hold on the Land. We must alway realize that we do not keep Israel without any strings attached. We have a clear commitment and responsibility to keep the Torah and fulfill the mitzvot as individuals and as a community. Shmita was commanded in the previous Parsha. In this week’s Parsha, we are presented with the dire consequences of the disregard of this important commandment.

  • Daily Aliya for Bechukotai, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: More blessings: Peace in the land, the elimination of wild animals from the land, and incredible military success — “Five of you will chase away a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase away ten thousand!”

    Notice how there is a promise of peace in the land and a promise for the might to vanquish the enemy. Peace in this context can refer to peace among Jews. Enemies from the outside still exist, and we are promised the ability to advance upon them.

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