Consciously Having a Direction and Sense of Mission

Consciously Having a Direction and Sense of Mission 5 7 21

Two perspectives that are suggested by the key feature of the Parashat HaShavua. 

In R. Jonathan Sacks’ 2016 Devar Tora for Parashat (Behar–) Bechukotai, “A Sense of Direction” ( A Sense of Direction (Bechukotai 5776) – Rabbi Sacks ), he distinguishes between “how” a person gets to a certain place, and “where” that place happens to be. Speed and directness of travel is all well and good; but if a person has no idea where s/he is going, then everything else is irrelevant.

In the Parashat HaShavua, the choice of “where to go” is quite stark, putting the “ball squarely in the Jewish people’s court,” with God applying the Mida KeNeged Mida (lit. an attribute for an attribute) principle in order to respond to them in kind:

VaYikra 26:3-4, 14-6

3 If ye (consciously) walk in My Statutes, and keep My Commandments, and do them; 4 Then I will Give…

14 But if ye will not hearken unto Me, and will not do all these Commandments; 15 And if ye shall reject My Statutes, and if your soul abhor Mine Ordinances, so that ye will not do all My Commandments, but break My Covenant; 16 I also will Do this unto you…

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A House in a Walled City is Immune to Jubilee

A House in a Walled City is Immune to Jubilee 5 6 21

In R. Amnon Bazak’s fifth Devar Tora for Parashat Behar (–Bechukotai), “Beit Moshav Ihr Choma” (Nekudat Peticha: Iyunim Ketzarim BePeshuta Shel Parashat HaShavua, [revised and expanded], Yediot Acharonot, Rishon LeTziyon, 2018, pp. 281-2), he discusses how Yovel (the 50th, Jubilee year) enables some sales of land or one’s person to be reversed:

VaYikra 25:10, 54

10 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto al l the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a Jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family…

54 And if he be not redeemed by any of these means, then he shall go out in the year of Jubilee, he, and his children with him.

but not all:

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Religious Strength in Numbers is Geometrical rather than Arithmetic

Religious Strength in Numbers is Geometrical rather than Arithmetic 5 5 21

A verse that invokes strange mathematics.

In Sivan Rahav-Meir’s second essay for Parashat (BeHar–) BeChukotai, “Synergy” (#Parasha: Weekly Insights for a Leading Israeli Journalist, trans. Chava Wilschanski, Menorah Books, Jerusalem, 2017, pp. 194-5), she focuses on a verse in the first portion of the Tochecha, where the Tora describes what will happen if the people comply with the Commandments:

VaYikra 26:8

And five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand; and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.

(The converse of this Promise appears just a few verses later:

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Nature Working with Man Rather than Against Him

Nature Working with Man Rather than Against Him 5 4 21

The Garden of Eden defined as a context in which man could have worked with nature, hand-in-hand.

The last time in the bible when man and nature really complimented one another was in the Garden of Eden. There were explicit responsibilities outlined by God  for man to fulfill:

Beraishit 2:15

And the LORD God Took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

And when man failed to fulfill the single Commandment that he had been given, i.e., not to eat from the Tree of Good and Evil, man is cursed by the natural world standing in opposition to him:

Ibid. 3:17-9

17 And unto Adam He Said: Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I Commanded thee, saying: Thou shalt not eat of it; Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

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Too Much Chosenness might not Always Be a Good Thing

Too Much Chosenness might not Always Be a Good Thing 5 3 21

While God Choosing the Jewish people for special responsibilities and privileges, could be said to begin at Sinai:

Shemot 19:5-6

5 Now therefore, if ye will hearken unto My Voice indeed, and keep My Covenant, then ye shall be Mine Own Treasure from among all peoples; for all the earth is Mine; 6 and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of Priests, and a Holy Nation…

and ratified when during the course of Parashat BeHar, God Refers to the Jews as special to Him:

VaYikra 25:42, 55

42 For they are My Servants, whom I Brought forth out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as bondmen…

55 For unto Me the children of Israel are Servants; they are My Servants Whom I Brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I Am the LORD your God.

the story of the Chosenness by God of the Jews, begins with Avraham, whose descendants, both literal and figurative,

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Caring for the Poor

Caring for the Poor 5 2 21

While the Tora summarily states that there will always be poor people amongst the Jews, and for that matter, all of humanity:

Devarim 15:11

For the poor shall never cease out of the land; therefore I Command thee, saying: Thou shalt surely open thy hand unto thy poor and needy brother, in thy land.

many verses in the Tora, particularly in Parshat BeHar, instruct how one must be careful to show such individuals every consideration, and try to make their lot as positive as possible. Topics covered in the Parashat HaShavua include:

a) how should we treat land and houses that poor individuals feel they need to sell:

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Jewish Values in Liturgy – May 2021: “Israel in the Mind of Someone Living in the Diaspora”


While there are several manifestations of the differences in liturgy between Jews living in Israel as opposed to the Diaspora,[1] perhaps the most overt is the “toggle” of the phrases “Tein Tal U’Matar” during the winter months, and “Tein Beracha” in the summer, as part of the 9th blessing of the weekday Amida, known as “Birchat HaShanim.”[2] While the replacement of the former with the latter, i.e., “Tein Tal U’Matar” by “Tein Beracha”, takes place each year at the beginning of Pesach in both Israel and the Gola, the reverse occurs at two different distinct times:

Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chayim 117:1

“Birchat HaShanim,” one has to mention within it (in the land of Israel) during the rainy (winter) season, “VeTein Tal U’Matar.”

And we begin to ask for rain in the Diaspora during Maariv on the 60th day following the Tekufa[3] of Tishrei, and the day of the Tekufa is included in the 60.

In the land of Israel, we begin to ask from the 7th night of MarCheshvan…

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Parashiot BeHar-Bechukotai (VaYikra 25:1-27:34): Questions for Consideration and Discussion II


Rishon: (VaYikra 25:1-18)

(v. 6-7) The fact that anyone and anything can come into one’s fields and eat his/her fill of those things that grow by themselves during the Sabbatical year, suggests what about the other years of the cycle?

See RaShI for a possible explanation, when he says that during the Sabbatical Year, one is not to act like a “Ba’al HaBayit.” Who is the “Ba’al HaBayit” of the fields in Israel during the Sabbatical Year? What does that signify for the other years of the cycle?               

Sheini: (Ibid. 19-28)

(v. 21) The Tora states that during the sixth year of the Sabbatical cycle, enough food will be produced to last for three years. What does this mean, and how is this possible?

See Ohr HaChayim who suggests that this will be a miraculous occurrence, but that nevertheless, an individual’s satiation is subjective.

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Particular Days of the Jewish Year When a Person Can Come Close to God

Particular Days of the Jewish Year When a Person Can Come Close to God 4 30 21

Detecting unique themes in the various places in the Tora that discuss the festivals of the Jewish year.

In R. Jonathan Sacks’ 2016 Devar Tora for Parashat Emor, “Holy Times” ( Holy Times (Emor 5776) – Rabbi Sacks ), he notes that the festivals of the Jewish year are discussed in essentially four (the two sections in Shemot share the same theme) separate sections of the Tora, each with a specific emphasis and point of view.

a) Shemot 23:14-7

14 Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto Me in the year. 15 The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep; seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I Commanded thee, at the time appointed in the month Aviv–for in it thou camest out from Egypt; and none shall appear before Me empty; 16 And the feast of harvest, the first-fruits of thy labors, which thou sowest in the field; and the feast of ingathering, at the end of the year, when thou gatherest in thy labors out of the field. 17 Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD.

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The Day as a Unit of Time for Sacrifices and Holy Occasions

The Day as a Unit of Time for Sacrifices and Holy Occasions 4 29 21

Three laws affecting sacrifices that are functions of time.

In R. Amnon Bazak’s second essay for Parashat Emor, “Meimad HaZeman BeKorbanot” (Nekudat Peticha: Iyunim Ketzarim BePeshuta Shel Parashat HaShavua, [revised and expanded], Yediot Acharonot, Rishon LeTziyon, 2018, pp. 269-70), he notes that within a few verses, the Tora addresses three aspects of sacrifices that are considered disqualified by inappropriate time in general, and ~24-hour days in particular:

VaYikra 22:26-30

26 And the LORD Spoke unto Moshe, Saying: 27 1) When a bullock, or a sheep, or a goat, is brought forth, then it shall be seven days under the dam; but from the eighth day and thenceforth it may be accepted for an offering made by fire unto the LORD. 28 2) And whether it be cow or ewe, ye shall not kill it and its young both in one day29  And when ye sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, ye shall sacrifice it that ye may be accepted. 30 3) On the same day it shall be eaten; ye shall leave none of it until the morning: I Am the LORD.

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