• 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.

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

    From Chabad.org: Blemished animals are disqualified for sacrificial use. This Aliya also forbids the castration of animals, sacrificing animals before they are eight days old, and slaughtering a mother animal and her child on the same day. The Aliya concludes with the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem, sanctifying G‑d‘s Name by giving one’s life rather than transgressing certain cardinal sins.

    Two probably connected items stand out in this Aliya. First, blemished animals should not be brought because “it will not be favorable for you” (I would think they should be avoided because they aren’t favorable to G-d). Second, the portions of the offering that aren’t burnt at the alter are to be eaten on that day, and not left over for the next day. I think this reinforces the concept that these offerings aren’t for G-d’s benefit, but for us to admit a wrong and move forward. These items take it a step further to insure that the leftovers are favorable to us, and that we enjoy them right away.

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

    From Chabad.org: This section discusses bodily blemishes and ritual impurities which disqualify a Kohen (priest) from performing the Temple priestly duties. The Aliya then lays down the rules regarding who in the Kohen’s household may eat teruma, the tithe from produce given to the Kohanim.

    There were impurities that required ritual purification (Mikva) to remove, but also required was nightfall (Passuk 6). Cleansing in clean water makes sense, but why does nightfall provide the final cleansing step? Since nightfall in Judaism marks the beginning of a new day, it provides the final step in returning to one’s purity. It’s comforting to know that every day is viewed as a sort of “reset” button.

  • Daily Aliya for Emor, Rishon (1st Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: The first Aliya discusses the Kohen‘s obligation to maintain a high level of ritual purity, and the women he may marry. An ordinary Kohen is prohibited to come in contact with a human corpse — except to attend the funerals of his next of kin — and may not marry a divorcee as well as some other women. The High Priest is not permitted to attend even family funerals, and is required to marry a virgin.

    Although less relevant to us because it discusses rules for Kohanim when they served in the Mishkan, there are some interesting tidbits hidden in this Aliya. For example, the Kohen Gadol (high priest) was forbidden from leaving his hair uncut for longer than 30 days (according to a Gemara in Sanhedrin) because it was a gesture of mourning. The rule is interesting, but it’s interesting that this rule is given only to the Kohel Gadol. A lot was conveyed by the priests through appearance through the special garments he wore, but this is the first time his physical appearance was deemed significant enough to monitor. Is it superficial to worry about looks, or can we really convey an attitude with the way we look, and thus have a responsibility to maintain appropriate appearance? Apparently the latter, which I wouldn’t have thought the Torah cared about until this Aliya.

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