BEHAR/BECHUKOSAI (Leviticus, 25:1-27:34) — “The Price of Tea in China”

The Nation of Israel traveled throughout the Sinai dessert for forty years.  Over the course of those forty years, they were given many commandments.  Although they stood at Mount Sinai at the beginning of that forty year period, and many commandments weren’t told to the People until many years later, the Torah assures us that ALL of the Mitzvahs were given at Sinai, not fabricated later:

G-d spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying: “Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, ‘When you will come into the Land that I am giving you, the Land will observe a Sabbath rest for G-d.  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 Sabbath for G-d; you may not sow your field, and you may not prune your vineyard.’ ” Leviticus, 25:1-5)

The Talmud is bothered by the expression, “G-d spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai…”  “What,” asks the Sifra, quoted by Rashi, “is the topic of the Sabbatical year doing next to a mention of Mount Sinai?”  (The Talmudic equivalent of the question, “What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?!”  :-)) Of all the Mitzvahs, why is the Sabbatical year singled out for mention as being given at Mount Sinai?

The answer, writes the Sifra, is that the Torah wants to teach us that “… just as all of the details of the Sabbatical year were taught at Mount Sinai, so too were the details of ALL the Commandments taught at Mount Sinai.”  Rashi explains that this Mitzvah, that was not taught to the People during the later years in the desert, was obviously taught at Sinai.  So too, says Rashi, all of the Mitzvahs that were taught later were also given at Sinai.


I heard a beautiful explanation of this thought from a hitchhiker I picked up.  (We have very learned hitchhikers in Monsey!!  🙂  )  He sat down in my car and proceeded to quote to me from “Avodas Yisroel,” by the Kozhnitzer Maggid.

The Sabbatical year is about faith.  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:

If you will say, “What will we eat in the seventh year? We can’t sow or harvest our crops?!”  I will bless you in the sixth year, and it will yield a crop sufficient for three years…  (Ibid.  Verses 20-21)

Shabbos works the same way.  G-d tells us to work for six days and rest on the seventh.  But what about business?  Saturday is a great day to run a sale!

G-d says, “Take it easy.  Have faith.  I am going to watch over you and provide for you.  You’ll earn more during a six-day work week than you would during a seven-day work week.”

There are six hundred thirteen commandments in the Torah. Some of them we understand; some of them we do not.

The Torah is giving us a means of understanding every Mitzvah.  Sabbatical laws we understand; G-d wants us to trust Him and rely upon Him.  The Sifra told us “… just as all of the details of the Sabbatical year were taught at Mount Sinai, so too were the details of ALL the Commandments taught at Mount Sinai.”

There is a connection between the Sabbatical laws and all of the laws.  It is the “Sinai Connection.”  It is the “Faith Connection.”  ALL laws are to teach us to have faith.

You don’t understand what’s wrong with eating clam chowder?  Have faith.  You have a problem with the Torah’s prohibition against shaving with a blade?  Follow the law anyway; it will strengthen your faith.

Remember the “Sinai Connection.”  G-d is there to watch over us.  He sends us our livelihood.  He heals the sick.  He gives us commandments that help to strengthen our faith.

He even sent me a hitchhiker to give me material for this week’s Torah Talk!!   🙂

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz


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? …


Read more.


“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.


“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.


“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.


“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.


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.


“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.


“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.


“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.


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


Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel ( 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, 2006 at 7:13 am  Leave a Comment  

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