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

    From Chabad.org: This section 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.

    The most intriguing Passuk is in the beginning of this Aliya (3),  saying that “Erkecha”, “your value” for pledging a man shall be… and so on. If the Torah is setting generic levels of value, it would make more sense to leave out the word “your” from the value, since it’s now everyone else’s value as well. Rashi is perplexed by this. The truth is that once you make a pledge of a certain value, the responsibility of paying that amount is now yours. Essentially, you’ve taken the value of this person, and made it yours, or your responsibility. Even if the value of the object or person now diminishes, you are still responsible for the amount originally pledged. It’s interesting that with one word, the Torah empowers the transfer of responsibility from the object to the person pledging the object. Maybe this is where the phrase “it’s all you” got started.

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

    From Chabad.org: More blessings: An overabundance of crops and G‑d’s presence will be revealed in our midst. This section 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.

    Rashi explains that these curses will only apply if we actively reject and rebel against the commandments and the study of Torah, and despise those that do perform them. In essence, it would be denying the very first commandment that G-dis the Omnipresent creator. It seems obvious that should all these horrible things happen, it would be pretty clear that G-d really is the Omnipresent creator (we were warned, and the threats came true), which would lead us to affirm the first commandment again. Simple cause and effect, really. It turns out that these horrible things are threats, just proofs that G-d exists and can exert his presence if we forced him to.

  • Daily Aliya for Behar-Bechukotai, Revi’i (4th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: We are commanded to treat Jewish slaves respectfully, never subjecting them to demeaning labor. The Torah prescribes the redemption process for a Jew sold into slavery to a non-Jewish master. Either the slave himself or one of his relatives refunds to the master the amount of money for the years remaining until the Jubilee — when the slave will go free even if he were not to be “redeemed.” Brief mention is made of the prohibition against idolatry, and the requirement that we observe the Shabbat and revere the Holy Sanctuary. We are promised incredible blessing if we diligently study Torah and observe the mitzvot. The blessings include plentiful food, timely rain, security, peace in the land, the elimination of wild animals from the land, and incredible military success.

    Although the definition of slave isn’t what we conjure up in our minds today, the concept of working for someone full-time (as in in-house) does offer some relevant lessons for us. For one, the mandate to not work him too hard is followed by the phrase “you shall fear your G-d”, while it doesn’t include that anywhere else in this section. Rashi explains that because “too hard” is subjective, and only you know when you’re working someone needlessly or excessively, accompanying the commandment with a “watch it” statement helps focus our attention on caring for others, even those that you feel you “own” rights to.

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

     From Chabad.org: The laws mentioned yesterday apply to fields and homes in unwalled cities. Homes in walled cities, on the other hand, may only be redeemed up to one year after the sale; otherwise they become the permanent property of the buyer. Another exception to these rules is the property allotted to the Levites, which are always redeemable. We are 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 from charging interest on a loan to a fellow Jew.

    When describing the rule not to charge a fellow Jew interest the Torah uses two words to describe the interest, which the Rabbis infer to make it a double Aveira (sin) to do so. This law comes on the heels of letting the Levi’im (Levites) buy back their fields, helping another person (Jew or non-Jew) as they falter but before they fall, and now this. This progression seems to be the blueprint to build a community that cares and helps each other. And the bottom line is to make sure that you don’t do it for your own benefit. Hence the double-underline when discussing the interest prohibition.

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

    From Chabad.org: This section 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! The Torah then gives the rationale for the prohibition against selling land for perpetuity (instead, land can only be “leased” until the Jubilee – 50th-  year) — “Because the Land belongs to Me; you are strangers and residents with Me.” The seller of land, or his relative on his behalf, has the option of “redeeming” the land from the purchaser — provided that two years have past from the date of purchase.

     Technically, if the sixth year harvest is needed to supply for the eighth year, because the eighth year harvest hasn’t grown yet, that means that the sixth year harvest will actually be used in the seventh year. That means that the sixth year harvest will be needed for the seventh (1) and eighth (2) years. Why then does it say that the sixth year harvest will last for three years? Rashi explains that it includes partial supply in the first year, since they will plant on Rosh Hashana and reap in Nissan of that year, so they’ll get six months of produce in the first year. The third year would also include that partial produce status.

  • Daily Aliya for Behar-Bechukotai, Rishon (1st Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: General Overview: This week’s double reading, Behar-Bechukotai, speaks about the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, laws regulating commerce and the redemption of slaves. It also contains a vivid description of the rewards for observing G‑d‘s commandments and the series of punishments that will befall us if we choose to disregard them. The Torah then discusses different types of gifts given to the Temple, and the animal tithe.

    G‑d commands Moses regarding the Sh’mitah (Sabbatical) and Jubilee years. Every seventh year is a Sabbatical year, when it is forbidden to work the land (in the Land of Israel). After seven sets of seven years a Jubilee year is proclaimed. During Jubilee years all the laws of the Sabbatical year apply, and, in addition to the Sabbatical laws, all slaves are set free and all lands revert to their original owners. We are commanded to conduct business ethically. Since 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 should be set accordingly. The end of this Aliya enjoins us not to verbally harass or intentionally mislead our fellows.

  • Daily Aliya for Emor, Shevi’i (7th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: We are instructed to use the purest of olive oils for the daily kindling of the Temple menorah, and to arrange twelve “showbreads” on the Temple Table every Shabbat. The Torah then tells the story of a Jewish man who was put to death for blaspheming G‑d. The portion concludes with the penalties for committing murder, property damages, and personal injury.

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

    From Chabad.org: The autumn holiday of Sukkot is now introduced. During this seven-day holiday we are commanded to sit in outdoor booths, take the Four Species (citron, palm branch, myrtles, and willows), and rejoice before G‑d. The final holiday is Shemini Atzeret, a one-day holiday which immediately follows Sukkot.

    Shmini Atzeret is a very unique and romantic holiday. Rashi explains that G-d doesn’t want us to leave Him after Sukkot, and asks us to stay with Him just one more day. Why is this the only holiday where G-d gets so attached to us that He asks us to stay? Well, it could be that Sukkot is the most all-encompassing holiday we have. Between living and eating in the Sukkah, to shaking the Lulav and Etrog, we perform so many Mitzvot (much of it by design, since we just started a new slate on Yom Kippur 5 days earlier). All that time AND activity together tends to cause separation anxiety, but only if you’ve enjoyed your time together!

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

    From Chabad.org: The High Holidays are discussed. We are commanded to hear the shofar (ram’s horn) on Rosh Hashanah, and to “afflict” ourselves on Yom Kippur.

    This Aliya isn’t very long, but it does include the instruction to hear the shofar because it’s a “zichron Truah”, or loosely translated as “sounds to remember”. What memories will these sounds conjure? Rashi explains that it’s the sacrifice Avraham was willing to make by offering his son Yitzchak. But the memory isn’t for the sacrifice itself, because it wasn’t us that made the sacrifice, it was Avraham. The shofar represents G-d releasing Avraham of the sacrifice he was willing to make. What was left, and what should be emulated,  was the willingness to sacrifice, and the knowledge that G-d has our backs.

  • Daily Aliya for Emor, Revi’i (4th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: This section begins a lengthy discussion about the Jewish holidays. After making brief mention of the Shabbat, the Torah talks about the holiday of Passover and the mitzvah of eating matzah. On the second day of this holiday, an “omer” barley offering is brought in the Temple. This is followed by a seven-week counting period that culminates with the holiday of Shavuot. After discussing the Shavuot Temple service, the Torah briefly interrupts the holiday discussion to mention the obligation, when harvesting fields, to leave certain gifts for the poor.

    While it may not be the first time the Torah says this, I’ve always found it interesting that when calling a day holy, the Torah says “mikra Kodesh”, which literally means “it shall be called holy”. If a day is described by the torah to be holy, such as it does here for Pesach, wouldn’t it make more sense that the day actually BE holy, rather than just being CALLED holy? Or maybe it’s because we call it holy that it becomes so. Suddenly what seems like an imposition of rules turns into a list of empowerments.

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