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

    Parshat Behar includes the rare occasion of the Torah asking a question for us. When describing the laws of Shmita (leaving the land unattended every seventh year), the Torah says “and if you should say ‘What will we eat in the seventh year?'” (25:20). The answer given is that G-d will supply enough food in the sixth year to last three years, long enough for the land to start producing again. Why is the Torah asking the question for us, rather than just letting us know that food will be supplied?

    Rabbi Lazer Gurkow answers that if you read the Passuk carefully, it says “if you should SAY”, demonstrating that the question is less of a quarrel and more of a statement of submission. When asked with humility, G-d rewards our trust with plenty. The Torah is not only informing us of the Shmita plans, but also showing us that our attitude and disposition when asking tough questions is as important as the questions themselves.

  • Dvar for Behar (Leviticus 25:1-26:2)

    Parshat Behar includes the rare occasion of the Torah asking a question for us. When describing the laws of Shmita (leaving the land unattended every seventh year), the Torah says “and if you should say ‘What will we eat in the seventh year?'” (25:20). The answer given is that G-d will supply enough food in the sixth year to last three years, long enough for the land to start producing again. Why is the Torah asking the question for us, rather than just letting us know that food will be supplied?

    Rabbi Lazer Gurkow answers that if you read the Passuk carefully, it says “if you should SAY”, demonstrating that the question is less of a quarrel and more of a statement of submission. When asked with humility, G-d rewards our trust with plenty. The Torah is not only informing us of the Shmita plans, but also showing us that our attitude and disposition when asking tough questions is as important as the questions themselves.

  • 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 Behar, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Torah prescribes the redemption process for a Jew sold into slavery to a non-Jewish master. The same formula described earlier (Fourth Aliya) is employed. Either the slave himself or one of his relatives refunds the master the amount of money that corresponds to the years remaining until the Jubilee — when the slave will go free even if he had not been “redeemed.” The Aliya concludes with a brief mention of the prohibition against idolatry, and the requirement that we observe the Shabbat and revere the Holy Sanctuary.

    Rashi explains the insertion the prohibition against idolatry: When exposed to owners/people with different ideals, the slave might be temped to act like them, and if they don’t keep Shabbat, maybe he would follow. If they served idols, perhaps he would too. The placement is therefore a warning to be weary of our surroundings and negative influences, both blatant and subtle.

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

    Aliya Summary: If a Jew sells himself into servitude because of poverty (or any other reason), his master may not treat him contemptibly. He shall be treated like an employee, and stays with his master only until Yovel. This is the maximum; under normal circumstances, the Jewish manservant goes free much sooner.

    We are servants of G-d, and should therefore not be subservient to other people.

  • Dvar for Behar (Leviticus 25:1-26:2)

    This week’s Parsha, 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?”

    The answer is 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 Behar, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: All the laws mentioned above apply to fields and homes in un-walled cities. Homes in walled cities, on the other hand, may be redeemed for their full value for up to one year after the sale. If not redeemed within the year, they become the permanent property of the buyer, and they are not released by the Jubilee. Another exception to these rules is the property allotted to the Levites. The homes and fields in the forty-eight Levite cities are always redeemable — from the moment of purchase until the Jubilee year, when in any event they revert to their owners. We are then commanded to assist our brethren by coming to their aid before they become financially ruined and dependent on the help of others. We are also forbidden to charge interest on a loan to a fellow Jew.

    The pasuk says that one should not lend money and charge interest. The word used here is “B’neshech”, which also means “with a bite”. A Jew who lends money to his fellow should do it with an open heart and a pleasant disposition, and not be snappy or curt with the recipient. The Torah repeatedly shows us the compassion that G-d has for the down-trodden. He wants us to emulate those feelings. Giving is good. Helping others is good. But it must be with a pleasantness that will not hurt the feelings of the already disadvantaged.

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

    Aliya Summary: A person who sells real-estate has the option of “redeeming” the land from the purchaser — provided that two years have passed from the date of purchase. The total price for which the land was sold is divided by the amount of years from the time of purchase until the next Jubilee year (when the land would anyhow return to the owner) in order to determine the price per year, and the original owner refunds the buyer however much money he had paid for the remaining years. A relative of the seller may also redeem the land on behalf of his family member.

    If you think about it, selling your property means that you have nowhere to live, which means that you’re probably looking to work for someone full-time, live-in, which is what selling yourself as a “slave” was, except that it was voluntary (kind of). Either way, Rashi points out that one is not allowed to sell their home voluntarily, only out of necessity. Everyone needs and deserves a place of their own, a place to call home. It’s REQUIRED by the Torah.

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

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya addresses an obvious concern: “What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not sow our gather our grain?!” G‑d reassures us that He will bless the sixth year’s harvest, and it will produce enough to provide for three years — until the crop of the eighth year is ready to eat! The Torah then gives the rationale for the prohibition against selling land for perpetuity (instead, land can only be “leased” until the Jubilee year) — “Because the Land belongs to Me; you are strangers and residents with Me.”

    Courtesy of this Aliya, if the Torah was man-made, it would take, at most, six years to disprove when the sixth year wouldn’t provide extra harvest. Luckily, it’s G-d-made, and we always get what we need.

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

    Aliya Summary: We are commanded to conduct business ethically. Since, as aforementioned, all land reverts to their original owners during the Jubilee year, the amount of years remaining until the next Jubilee year must be taken into account whenever a real-estate sale is conducted, and the price set accordingly. The end of this Aliya enjoins us not to verbally harass or intentionally mislead our fellows.

    Rambam describes certain situations in business in which one can technically get away with something, but he is considered not to have acted in “a proper Jewish manner”. Perhaps the positive commandment also comes to teach us not to take advantage of the technical loopholes, but rather to conduct ourselves with the highest standards of business ethics.

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