BEHAR/BECHUKOSAI (Leviticus, 25:1-27:34) — “Labor Gains”

Jewish life is all about choices.  We are given the option of choosing the path that G-d wants us to follow, or a path that goes the other way.  Either way, says the Torah, there are consequences to our choices.

This Torah Portion begins with the promise of blessings for walking in G-d’s ways. It then continues by warning us of the repercussions created by abandoning the Torah.  (It is customary to read this “Tochachah” — Rebuke, in a lower volume and faster speed than the rest of the Torah reading. In so doing, we demonstrate our reluctance to even read about the negative events that could possibly befall us, G-d forbid.  It is also customary for this Aliyah to be given to the rabbi, the Torah Reader, or the Gabbai, so as not to offend a member of the congregation by calling him up for the reading of these curses.)

In introducing these rewards and punishments, the Torah lets us know what is, and what isn’t, expected of us: “If you will walk in My decrees, and observe My commandments and perform them; then I will provide your rains in their time and the land will give its produce…”(Leviticus, 26:3-4)

‘IF YOU WILL WALK IN MY DECREES…’ this teaches us that G-d wants us to labor in Torah.”  (Sifra, sec.  1)

The Sifra, in explaining this verse, is telling us that Torah must be an indispensable part of our lives.  The Torah continues with the flip side of this commandment: “And if you will behave casually with Me… then I too will behave toward you with casualness.”(Ibid. 21,24)

We are, of course, proud to be Jewish.  We fulfill Mitzvahs and we recite prayers.  But do we LABOR IN TORAH?  Do we toil and struggle to make Torah the be-all, end-all emphasis of our lives?  Is Torah our lifeblood?  Or is it little more than a cultural appendage, a potpourri of chicken soup, matzah balls and gefilte fish?

We live in a time when, thank G-d, we have the opportunity to live our lives as Torah Jews.  Do we take full advantage of this wonderful fact and labor in Torah, working at modeling our lives around the paradigm of Torah Judaism, refining our character and deeds to meet the demanding standards of Torah Judaism?

There are two types of people who subscribe to my weekly messages — those who are not yet observant Jews, and those who already are.  For those of us who are not quite there yet, isn’t there a new Mitzvah that we can introduce into our daily lives?  Isn’t it time that we worked a little harder at fulfilling G-d’s will?

Those of us who consider ourselves “Frum” should not delude ourselves into thinking that we have “made it.” The message is the same — How is our Tefillah?  Do we daven with a recognition that we are talking to the King of Kings?  Do we give Tzedakah with compassion?  Do we wake up every morning and say “Modeh Ani –Thank You, G-d for putting me into this wonderful world and giving me the opportunity to sanctify my life by dedicating every waking moment to Your Torah”?)

Being totally devoted to Torah does not mean running away from the real world.  It doesn’t mean to be obsessively and compulsively locked into a cult-like religious fanaticism.  Laboring in Torah means that we are making every effort to use the world as it was meant to be used — as a means of serving our Creator (and His children!).

Did you ever buy a computer or some other machine that doesn’t seem to work no matter how hard you try?  There’s usually a simple solution: Read the owner’s manual supplied by the manufacturer.  Do we want all the blessings that this world can provide?  Same suggestion: Read the manual supplied by the Manufacturer, and follow the instructions to the letter!

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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From the Archives 

(Sometimes the Torah Portions of Behar and Bechukosai are read in the same week, and sometimes they are read in separate weeks.  To avoid confusion, both are listed here) 

From Behar, the first of this week’s two Torah Portions 

“The Palestinians are Right!” (2010)

 Israel is ours.

From time immemorial, theLandofIsraelhas been inhabited by Jews.  There is no such thing asPalestine.  The so-called “Palestinians” need to wake up to that fact, get a life, and move on.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, dismiss this notion as wishful thinking on the part of the Jews.  They continue to argue that there is no proof that the Land is ours…

Of course, as we know, the Palestinians are wrong … Right? …

THE TRUTH IS THAT … ISRAELDOES  NOT BELONG TO THE JEWS.  It never has…

Read more.

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“The Price of Tea in China” (2006)

“…  For six years you may sow your field, and for six years you may prune your vineyard, and you may gather its crop.  But the seventh year will be a complete rest for the Land…”

…  A farmer works his field for six years, trying his hardest to produce an income to support his family.  Now we tell him to take a year off.

Take a year off?!  How am I gonna eat?!

Good question…

Read more.

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“Aharon Moshe — Servant of G-d and His Children” (2005)

… It is customary among Chassidim to bring written requests to righteous people.  All of their needs are written on these “Kvittlach” — notes, and the righteous people are asked to pray to G-d for the fulfillment of these requests.  After the Second World War, there was a dearth of such holy people.

One great Rabbi, the Rebbe of Satmar, of Blessed Memory, was asked what to do.  “Now that so many of our Tzaddikim, righteous people, have been killed, to whom should we bring our requests for blessings?”

The Rebbe gave two answers…

This was not an easy article to write.  (Tears don’t show up on computer screens.)…

Read more.

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“Ask a Stupid Question…” (2004)

… CHAYIM: I can’t believe what happened to me today!

YANKEL: What happened?

CHAYIM: A guy came by the office today selling ties.  He showed me some hand-made silk ties.  He told me that they were worth $50, but he was willing to sell them for only $30.  What a bargain!  Twenty dollars off!  I bought five!

YANKEL: That’s great, Chayim!  What’s the problem?  You saved $100!  That’s wonderful!

CHAYIM: Well, not exactly.  As it turned out, they were actually made of polyester, and are available on Ebay for $3 apiece.

YANKEL: Oh…Uh, Chayim…

CHAYIM: Yes, Yankel?

YANKEL:  You, my dear friend, are a jerk.  A naive, stupid fool!  You should be ashamed of yourself!  What’s the matter with you?!  How could you allow yourself to be ripped off like that?!  Boy, that con man must be laughing at you now!

We have just observed two violations of Torah Law…

Read more.

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“Free as a Bird” (2002)

We’re all familiar with the famous words on the Liberty Bell: “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land…” Many people are not aware that it is actually a quote from the Torah. (Leviticus, 25:10)

…”Proclaim ‘D’ROR’ throughout the land.”

You’ll notice that I left the word “D’ROR” untranslated. Most commentaries give comparable translations… synonymous with the bell-maker’s translation – “Liberty.”

… Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra presents an interesting insight into the word “D’ROR.” … the Dror is a very independent bird. As long as it is in its own nest, it sings to its heart’s content. However, once it is taken into captivity it silently refuses to eat and eventually starves. (“Give me liberty or give me death!”)…

Read more.

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From Bechukosai, the second of this week’s two Torah Portions 

“Don’t Just STAND There…” (2009)

We strive to be holy.  It is not an easy task.  The Torah was not given to angels; it was given to human beings with human weaknesses.  Yet, we make the effort.

In our daily prayers, we make reference to the angels in Heaven and the divine symphony of praise that they offer to G-d every day…

The Heavens ring forth with holiness that we mortals cannot even begin to imagine, much less, understand.  Yet we try:

We shall sanctify Your Name in this world, just as they sanctify it in Heaven above, as it is written by Your prophet, “they call one another and say:  ‘Holy, holy, holy..’

The above prayer is recited standing, with our feet together as if they are one foot, just like the angels, about whom it is written, and their legs are one straight leg” (Ezekiel 1:7) and who are referred to as “Standers.” (Zechariah, 3:7)

All this, of course, begs the question: whom are we trying to kid??!

We are simple, mortal human beings.  How can we even contemplate a serious attempt at being like the angels?  Their level of holiness is so far beyond ours that it seems pointless to even make the comparison…

Read more.

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“Confessions of a Would-Be Vegetarian” (2005)

… it began to sink in.  Do I really want to KILL my chickens?  Do I really want toEATmy chickens?  After months of watching their antics, running and wing-flapping and squawking around my back yard, making me laugh and giving me eggs, do I really want to put them in a soup pot?…

Read more.

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“Your Money or your Wife!” (2003)

How much is a person worth?  What is the dollars-and-cents cash value of a human being? … The Book of Judges tells us the heartbreaking story of Yiftach, whose poor judgment led to a tragedy … Yiftach was praying for success in battle … “If You deliver Ammon into my hands, the first thing that comes out of my house to greet me, I will offer as a sacrifice.” (Judges,11:31).

The Talmud says that Yiftach had made an irresponsible vow.  Not every animal is acceptable as an offering.  If the family cow or his pet lamb had ambled out the door to meet him, either one would have served as a fine Thanksgiving offer on the Altar.  But what would he do if he were greeted by Fido or his daughter’s pet iguana?!

Actually, the scenario was even worse…

Read more.

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“Labor Gains” (2001)

Jewish life is all about choices.  We are given the option of choosing the path that G-d wants us to follow, or a path that goes the other way.  Either way, says the Torah, there are consequences to our choices….

We are, of course, proud to be Jewish.  We fulfill Mitzvahs and we recite prayers.  But do we LABOR IN TORAH?  Do we toil and struggle to make Torah the be-all, end-all emphasis of our lives?  Is Torah our lifeblood?  Or is it little more than a cultural appendage, a potpourri of chicken soup, matzah balls and gefilte fish?… There are two types of people who subscribe to my weekly messages…

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain inMonsey,New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on May 17, 2001 at 5:38 am  Leave a Comment  

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